Tibetan Areas of China Confirm 140 Coronavirus Cases

lhasa-potala.jpg The Potala Palace in the regional capital Lhasa, in China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Sept. 11, 2016

Four provinces of western and northwestern China historically populated by Tibetans -- Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan -- have confirmed 140 cases of coronavirus, official media reported Tuesday as the Tibetan capital Lhasa's airport began screening passengers from Wuhan.

The China Tibet Broadcasting website reported that as of Jan 27, Sichuan confirmed 90 cases of coronavirus, Yunnan reported 26,  Gansu reported 19 positive tests, and Qinghai identified six cases. Four of the Gansu patients were in critical condition, it said/

The Lhasa-based state broadcaster did not reveal whether the patients are ethnically Tibetan or Han Chinese, but said they were being treated at designated hospitals.

Lhasa is the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), where no cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed.

The number of confirmed cases of illness caused by the novel coronavirus, officially termed nCoV-2019 (Wuhan) by the World Health Organization (WHO), rose to 4,409 in China on Tuesday, with the majority still clustered in Hubei, according to a website set up by researchers at Johns Hopkins University to track the epidemic. The number of deaths in the epidemic rose to 107.

A Lhasa resident said “passengers and travelers arriving from Wuhan at Gonggar airport in Lhasa are singled out for physical screening and are kept under close observation for any display of the symptoms."

The state-owned Tibet Daily and Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily reported that any passengers arriving in Lhasa by air or rail planes are kept in designated zones under close observation for 14 days, with anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus required to be rushed to designated hospitals in Lhasa.

All expenses, including food and accommodations must be borne by the passengers,  the reports said.

The Lhasa resident described empty streets and light traffic at key Buddhist temples.

“Most teashops and restaurants are all closed down, and there are many people on duty to prevent any gathering of crowds all over Lhasa, in an effort to prevent the spread of the infection," he told RFA.

“Beginning from Jan 27, any travelers arriving in Lhasa are required to remain in hotels for 14 days, and had to undergo a thorough physical checkup,” said another source in the capital.

Lhasa City’s Bureau of Culture Relics has ordered the closing of cinemas, clubs, and internet cafes, and the Lhasa Tourism Development Bureau has told city guest houses and hotels—except for those designated by the TAR government as “emergency hotels”—to shut down by Jan. 29.

In Lhasa, major public gathering sites such as the Jokhang temple, the Potala Palace, and the Norbulingka—summer home of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama—were closed on Monday.

A Tibetan in Zachuka in eastern Tibet told RFA that roads in the area were blocked.

"I am in Zachuka and now the road to and back from this area is closed to traffic and travelers," he said.

“Tibetans who are well informed about the disease are taking proper precautions, but there are many other Tibetans who are not so well informed," the man said, adding that the government is not handing out any face masks to people.


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