A new case of infection by the Wuhan coronavirus in a Tibetan area of China was confirmed on Thursday in Sichuan’s Ngaba prefecture, according to Chinese state media reports which described the patient as a 26-year-old woman from Hubei.
“[She] left on Jan. 21 and arrived in Barkham county on Jan. 22 by train, passing through Chengdu," the official announcement said. "The patient was confirmed coronavirus positive and is being treated in isolation in the hospital."
"Those who have been in close contact with the patient are also under medical observation,” it said.
The report follows an announcement on Wednesday confirming the infection of a patient identified only by his surname Zhang, who arrived in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa by train from Hubei on Jan. 24 and was admitted to a hospital for testing the next day.
Meanwhile, monasteries, cultural sites, and other public gathering places remain closed in central areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region, with all tourists and pilgrims now in Lhasa ordered to leave for their native areas beginning Jan. 31, a Tibetan man said in front of Lhasa’s Potala Palace in a video now circulating on social media.
Speaking to RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday, a Tibetan man living in Toelung county, near Lhasa, said that restaurants in Toelung have now shut down, adding that people’s movements through the area have been tightly restricted.
“We are not allowed to travel to Lhasa,” he said. “I’ve heard that the prices of vegetables there have jumped a lot.”
Arrivals continue by air
Flights in and out of Lhasa meanwhile continue as normal, though officials at Lhasa’s Gongkar airport carefully screen arriving passengers for signs of infection a city resident said, adding, “I have friends who arrived in Lhasa via plane yesterday, and today as well.”
Passengers who are residents of Lhasa are temporarily held in isolation and then released to their homes if they show no signs of infection, RFA’s source said. “But those who are kept in a hotel for medical observation are charged [a fee] and have to pay it.”
Meanwhile, teachers in the Lhasa schools have reached out to their students via the social media platform WeChat to read their temperatures each day before coming to class, the source said.
Travel restrictions and bans on public gathering meanwhile continue in Tibetan areas of western Chinese provinces, sources in the region say.
“[The virus] is not that big a problem in our area, as anyone coming here from China receives a thorough screening,” a Tibetan resident of Dartsedo county in Sichuan’s Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture told RFA on Thursday.
“But we’re not allowed to travel to Lhasa,” he said. “We’re banned from leaving this place for fear we might contract the infectious virus.”
“We’re not allowed to travel to China, and it looks like the opening of school here may be delayed,” a resident of Qinghai’s Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Region said, while in Sichuan’s Dege county a resident said that people there are not allowed now to gather in one place.
“Workshops and classes are now prohibited," he said. "But no efforts are being made to inform the public about the virus itself. We have to get our information online."
Roads blocked, destroyed
Travel in Tibetan areas “remains difficult, with highways and other main roads blocked and health officials stationed along the way to screen travelers,” a Tibetan returning to Yulshul from Dege told RFA on Jan. 29.
“I had to bypass the road blocks and take different directions to reach where I wanted to go,” he said.
Video clips sent from Tibet meanwhile show construction crews tearing up a road leading from Chentsa county in Qinghai’s Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture to the provincial capital Qinghai.
“The road is being completely cut off. You can’t even go through on foot,” a Tibetan man narrating one video says. “The road will only open again when the order comes from higher authorities, and at that time a notice will be issued.”
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.