Hundreds of new COVID cases reported in Tibet and Xinjiang

Thousands of Chinese tourists remain stranded at Lhasa’s airport.
By RFA Tibetan and RFA Uyghur
2022.08.23
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People wait to undergo testing for the COVID-19 virus in Lhundrup county, western China's Tibetan Autonomous Region, Aug. 21, 2022.
Chinese state media

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases continued to rise in western Tibet and Xinjiang, where Chinese authorities have stepped up mass testing of residents in major cities, sources in the regions said.

As of Tuesday, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) recorded 5,892 confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase of 211 from the day before, as the number of infections has risen in the capital Lhasa and nearby areas, according to official figures. 

The number of positive COVID-19 cases is increasing in neighboring Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). 

As of Tuesday, the region recorded 3,154 confirmed cases, with 173 new ones, according to official figures. More and more people are being quarantined, and a lack of food items for purchase in major coronavirus hot spots such as Ghulja (in Chinese, Yining) is still severe. 

“It has been 21 days now under lockdown,” a Ghulja resident told RFA on Tuesday. “They [authorities] said food was supplied with trucks, but we haven’t seen any delivery to us. We are only eating potatoes these days” 

There had been only one prior confirmed infection in the TAR — a person traveling from central China’s Hubei province to Lhasa tested positive for the virus in January 2020 — until Aug. 7 of this year, when new cases began to emerge rapidly.

As of Monday, more than 46,450 people in Tibet had been quarantined as mass testing was carried out, according to official figures. 

Thousands of Chinese tourists visiting the region when lockdowns were put in place remain stranded at Lhasa Gonggar Airport. RFA reported a week ago that tens of thousands of Chinese tourists stranded in Lhasa and in Shigatse (in Chinese, Xigaze) and Ngari (Ali) were trying to leave the region. 

On Aug. 16, the TAR’s Transportation Department announced that those who are leaving by air or train must take two COVID tests within 24 hours of their departure and have a certificate indicating negative results.

Now, Tibetan students attending schools in China are not able to make it back to school on time, sources said. 

Many confirmed cases have been reported among Chinese tourists in Tibet, some of whom have been able to return home via different routes. 

Official Chinese reports, however, state that many tourists have left the region because all guesthouses and hotels around the airport are completely occupied, while others still stuck in Tibet are staying in temporary tents on airport parking lots.

Tibet is one of the flash points in China for the contagious respiratory disease with 514 areas of the country’s total of 1,369 hot spots, according to Chinese media. 

Lhasa residents told RFA that they are finding it difficult to purchase groceries, including vegetables, due to restrictions on movement put in place by Chinese authorities.  

Authorities also punished 19 people in Tibet for violating the COVID-19 rules and regulations, source said, though no details about the nature of the punishment imposed nor the individuals punished was available. 

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan and by RFA Uyghur. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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