The COVID Outbreak in Tibet

The COVID-19 pandemic in mainland China is part of the worldwide pandemic of the coronavirus disease 2019. China is said to be the first country to have experienced the severity of the outbreak and to have imposed drastic measures including lockdowns and face mask mandates in response to the criticality. It has become a well-known phenomenon to the world of how the initial Wuhan COVID- 19 outbreak took place with lasting impacts.

The communist party’s response to that has been applauded as well as criticized. The mere fact that the censorship of information was given significance to is what angered the rest of the would have helped prepare the rest of the world if China had sent out alerts or warnings regarding the outbreak that took place and let the other countries take measures to atleast weigh the plausible preventive methods. The Chinese autonomous region of Tibet, which barely reported COVID patients for more than two years is now said to be facing a spate of new infections.

This has led to the sudden imposition of various restrictions in the region, the second largest city. Tibet apparently maintained the best record amongst the Chinese regions and provinces under China’s “dynamic zero COVID” policy. In January 2020, Tibet reported only one infection with the confirmed symptoms. No cases were reported after that in the 900 days that followed. The regional capital of Lhasa however reported one symptomatic patient and seventeen asymptomatic patients in the beginning of August. The city then reportedly sealed a few buildings.

People who were listed in the 18 cases had entered Lhasa from the city of Shigatse, Tibet’s second biggest city with a population of about 800,000. The city later imposed a three day curb during which travel was restricted and various events were suspended. The Potala Palace in Lhasa has been closed and the authorities are now hosting mass testing after the sudden outbreak. The deputy director of the Tibetan Region’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Pengcuo Ciren stated that the first rounds of mass testing in Lhasa and Shigatse has started while the second rounds will follow suit.

Major tourist sites in Lhasa, the Potala Palace, Lop Noringa and the Tibet Museum have all been closed without further notice. The world has somewhat come to terms with the virus and found ways to live with it by minimizing the risks and severity, China is still struggling with it by following means of strict isolation, quarantine, mandatory nuclei tests and contract-tracing regimen to cot the cause from its root and to maintain their strict zero-COVID policy. The part secretary of the Tibet Autonomous region, Wang Junzheng has stated that the outbreak has posed an enormous challenge to the control of the COVID-19 situation. The authorities however wish to eliminate the outbreak as swiftly as possible by minimizing the impacts on the economy that was hit hard during the initial outbreaks in China. Tibet relies heavily on tourism for their economic growth so the certain setback will surely cause them great loss. Wang Junzheng urged the residents to get vaccinated and talked about

how the Omicron virus is not the same as the big flu and is much more transmissible than influenza and other previous variants of COVID-19. Since the first reports in August 2022, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen in western Tibet and Xinjiang where the authorities have been holding mass testing. Up until now, the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has recorded a total of 5892 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The number of positive COVID-19 cases is reportedly increasing in neighboring Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

The number of people being quarantined is also increasing and there also have been news regarding how the hot spots such as Yining are also seeing cases of lack of food items for purchase. A resident from the region stated how the area has been under lockdown for more than 20 days. The resident also told RFA about how the trucks with food supplies that the authorities claimed to have sent never reached them and that no such delivery has been made. They apparently have only been eating potatoes. Radio Free Asia (RFA) also issued a report about how tens of thousands of Chinese tourists were stranded in Lhasa and in Shigatse and Ngari were trying to leave the region. An announcement was made on 16th august by the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s Transportation Department about how those who wished to leave by or train would have to take two COVID tests within 24 hours of their departure and have a valid certificate validating their negative test results.

Not only tourists but Tibetan students who attend schools in China are not able to make it back to school on time. The situation is severe in the regions causing a lot of concern and impacting the lives of the peoples through various means. The residents in Lhasa told RFA about how they are finding it hard to even purchase grocery items including vegetables because of the restrictions imposed on movement by the Chinese authorities. A number of Tibetans have also been punished, the authorities accusing them of having violated the rules. The nature of punishment or the severity however hasn’t been disclosed. The sudden outbreak has definitely stirred the Communist government but it has rather affected the lives of the Tibetans since strict measures are taken and some very suspicious ones as well. Reports and news regarding the situation has been coming out but the true matter taking place inside Tibet isn’t fully known.

News Desk

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