Mainland Chinese Beat Travel Ban to Fly to Tibet

Tibetan women wear face masks in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in a Jan. 23, 2020 photo.

Many Chinese fearing infection from the spreading Wuhan coronavirus have traveled by plane to Tibet this week, including many from Wuhan who left the city just ahead of a travel ban imposed on Jan. 22, sources say.

Speaking to RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday, a Tibetan returning home by air from Shanghai said that most of the passengers on her flight were Han Chinese, adding, “Only a few were Tibetans.”

“I learned from others that before the ban on travel from Wuhan was enforced, there were people from Wuhan who managed to get out of there and had somehow found their way to Lhasa,” Tibet’s regional capital, she said.

“In Lhasa, the health department has issued a notice calling on anyone who has come from mainland China, and especially from Wuhan, to report themselves and register, urging them not to mingle with crowds for a couple of weeks.”

“I have not left home, and am staying indoors,” the woman said, adding that many Tibetans who were traveling in China have now also returned, with others staying for now in Sichuan province's capital Chengdu "in a state of uncertainty."

A video clip showing a woman in Lhasa who says she came from Wuhan and is unafraid of falling ill is meanwhile circulating widely, unnerving residents of the city, RFA’s source said.

Also speaking to RFA, a Tibetan flying to Lhasa on Jan. 23 from Xian in China’s Shaanxi province said, “Everyone is wearing masks here, and those who show signs of having a fever are not allowed to proceed.”

"There are now so many Chinese who have come to Lhasa, with people saying that they have come here to escape from the coronavirus outbreak in China," the source said.

Plane lands in Qinghai

On Jan. 23, a day after the ban on travel from Wuhan was announced, a plane carrying 128 passengers from Wuhan landed at an airport in Xining, capital of northwestern China’s heavily Tibetan-populated province of Qinghai, according to a Qinghai Tibetan Radio report on Friday.

“Authorities are carefully screening all passengers arriving from Wuhan at any point of entry, and anyone showing symptoms such as a high fever or coughing is being checked for the virus and singled out for closer examination,” the radio report said.

Also on Friday, Qinghai’s Health Commission announced it has now identified “the first suspected case of pneumonia in a new coronavirus infection in the province.” The patient, Chen Moumou, a 27-year-old male, currently lives in Xining, but had gone to visit relatives in Wuhan on Jan. 21, the announcement said.

The number of confirmed cases of the newly emerging coronavirus that causes pneumonia continued to rise in China on Friday, as the nation marked the end of the Year of the Pig.

The novel coronavirus (nCoV) has killed 26 people and infected more than 800 around the world, with the majority of those cases found in the central province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, China's National Health Commission said.

Thailand has confirmed four cases, with Japan, Macau, and Vietnam reporting two each, while single cases have been confirmed in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, and two in the United States, according to a Johns Hopkins University interactive map.

Reported by Yangdon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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