A volleyball match that saw China’s national women’s team compete while wearing N95 masks has caused a stir on Chinese social media.
Many netizens expressed their anger, suggesting that the health of players was being sacrificed for the sake of the country’s zero-Covid strategy.
The players later took their masks off for the second set and went on to win.
China’s Volleyball Association later apologized, saying the decision was made was due to a “lack of experience”.
But many remained critical, with one saying it was an example of officials taking China’s mask mandate “too far”.
“Our leaders are… taking things too far – it’s as simple as that,” one user wrote.
The event took place on Thursday at the Asian Cup in the Philippines and saw the Chinese team go up against Iran.
Photos from the match, showing the athletes with their masks on, quickly circulated on social media – triggering an uncommon outpouring of criticism online, with more than 16 million views on the topic on Weibo, China’s largest social media platform.
One Weibo comment wrote: “Is health or performance more important? We need to take some responsibility towards our athletes.”
Another said: “How long will this so-called epidemic prevention farce continue? Do we want to become the butt of all other countries’ jokes?”
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The fury online prompted the Chinese Volleyball Association to respond on Thursday with a public apology.
In a statement on Weibo, it explained that team organizers prior to the game had learned of Covid- infected players in other teams and said some symptoms had been reported among Chinese team members.