Tibetans Alarmed as Visitors Continue to Enter Lhasa During Coronavirus Scare

tibet-lhasa-tourists-crop.jpg In a file photo, tourists walk through the Potala Palace, in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are worried about the possible spread of novel coronavirus (nCoV) in the capital Lhasa, as they feel authorities have not taken adequate measures to limit the number of visitors entering the city.

Some measures have been enacted, but residents of the capital say these are not enough.

“Tibetans in Lhasa are concerned that many [Han] Chinese are pouring in without hindrance. Even though there are bans on travel between Tibetan towns and cities, and between Chinese cities, the Chinese keep making their way to Lhasa,” a Tibetan resident of the city told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“There is a real risk of spreading the virus not only in Lhasa, but all over the Tibet Autonomous Region,” the source said, adding, “The screenings of passengers at the train station and the airport are proving to be ineffective.”

More flights to Lhasa from Chinese cities need to be suspended, the source said.

“The Chinese authorities have stopped flights only from Wuhan to Lhasa. All other flights from other regions of China are operating as normal. It is the same with the train.”

The two-week incubation period for the virus made screenings at airports and rail stations ineffective, he added.

“A few days ago, a patient that has now been confirmed positive for coronavirus while in Lhasa was not identified by health officials. Instead he came forward himself to see the doctors when he felt unwell,” the source said.

Confirmed cases of nCoV in Tibetan areas

As of Thursday, Qinghai province has a total of 18 positive cases, with 15 in the capital Xining and the three in the Tsojang (Haibei) Tibetan Autonomous prefecture, according to Chinese media.

In the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, the number of cases rose to 12 from eight. Three of the new cases are Tibetans, joining four other Tibetans in Kardze’s Tawu county. According to Woeser, a prominent writer based in Beijing, these seven are the only Tibetans now confirmed to have contracted the virus.

There is also one case each in the Ngaba (Aba) and Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous prefectures in Sichuan and Gansu provinces.

Inside the Tibet Autonomous Region only one confirmed case has been announced.

Meanwhile, a Tibetan husband and wife were subjected to unspecified “disciplinary action” by the government of Lhoka county, TAR, for failing to inform authorities before they traveled to Wuhan to bring their child back to Tibet in January.

Monasteries help fight nCoV

Several monasteries in Tibet have meanwhile donated sizable funds to the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the nCoV outbreak, a second source said.

The main monasteries of Sera and Drepung in Lhasa were joined by Kumbum monastery in Eastern Tibet in donating several millions of yuan (1 million yuan = U.S. $143,482) as the affected areas are facing acute shortages of protective gear, face masks, and food items, the source told RFA.

“If Tibetans practice compassion by reaching out to those affected Chinese by extending our support during their struggle, it will likely affect the way the Chinese regard Tibetans in the future,” the second source said.

In a video message Wednesday, Lobsang Sangay the president of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration, appealed to Tibetans inside Tibet “to follow proper preventive care by maintaining good personal hygiene as an antidote to the deadly virus.”

Sangay added that he has prayed for Tibetans at Bodh Gaya, a religious site in India that Buddhists believe is the exact location where the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

Reported Lobsang Gelek and Lobe for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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