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China’s strict anti-coronavirus strategy is facing an intense backlash after video footage showed officials preventing residents in the country’s southwest from leaving their homes following a deadly earthquake this week, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

A 6.8-magnitude quake hit the Sichuan province Monday, killing more than 70 people, leveling buildings and rendering roads impassable.

The government has helped relocate more than 50,000 people and more than 1,900 security-force personnel have been dispatched to the area.

But the catastrophe also sparked criticism online over China’s strict “zero Covid” policy after online posts and videos emerged showing residents being stopped from fleeing their homes.

One screenshot showed how residents in the city of Chengdu were ordered by their building manager to stay in their apartments throughout the earthquake.

Another video in Chengdu showed a crowd of residents gathering at the gate of their apartment complex, asking to be let out. The employees on the other side urged them to return home, saying that the earthquake was over.

Chengdu’s health commission responded that in the event of a natural disaster, safety should take precedence over pandemic restrictions.

China’s inflexible Covid-19 measures have come under fire since the beginning of the pandemic when authorities confined residents into their homes – including welding doors shut in apartment buildings.

Beijing has been trying to ease some of the pandemic restrictions in recent months. Even so, tens of millions of people around the country are currently in lockdown after the government issued new restrictions in response to an uptick in cases.

The recent measures come ahead of a crucial Chinese Communist Party congress next month, where President Xi Jinping is expected to break precedent by staying on for a third five-year term.

Xi has vowed that the country will maintain its “zero Covid” policy to suppress outbreaks for the foreseeable future.

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