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After 22 Covid cases, China locks down Shigatse city, parts of Lhasa and Purang County

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug09’22) – The number of new Covid-19 cases in the current outbreak in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) which began with four on Aug 7 has risen to 22 with 18 more detected on the same day in capital Lhasa, reported China’s official media Aug 8 and 9. After the first ever case was detected in late Jan 2020 in a Chinese traveller from Wuhan, the pandemic’s origin, in Hubei Province, TAR has remained free of the pandemic for 920 days.

Now a whole city as well as several parts of one county and of Lhasa city, including the Potala Palace, are in lockdown, with restrictions imposed on cross-city travelling in low-risk areas, reported China’s official globaltimes.cn Aug 8. Mass testing for Covid-19 have bene kicked off in the two biggest cities in Tibet – Lhasa and Shigatse – reported the asiafinancial.com Aug 9.

The 22 cases were all related to Shigatse (Chinese: Xigaze) City in southern TAR, home to about 800,000 people, said the globaltimes.cn report. Eighteen of these cases were detected in Lhasa, with nine of them having taken the same train from Shigatse to Lhasa on Aug 4. Two children were diagnosed as confirmed cases while the others are currently asymptomatic, reported the official chinadaily.com.cn Aug 9.

The report cited a statement issued by the city’s health authorities as saying all the cases were connected to a woman who had traveled from Shigatse city to Lhasa on that day.

The first four cases in the current outbreak were detected earlier in Ngari (Ali) Prefecture’s Purang (Burang) County in eastern Tibet, home to around 12,000 people, through regular nucleic acid testing. They too had travelled from Shigatse.

The whole city of Shigatse was under three-day static management on Aug 8, with nobody allowed to enter or leave the city, the report said. Lhasa announced the implementation of static management in medium and high-risk areas, with cross-city traveling in low-risk areas being subjected to the presentation of a 48-hour negative nucleic acid testing result. These restrictions will be in place for five days, said the globaltimes.cn report. The iconic Potala Palace, the winter home of Dalai Lamas, has been shuttered, reported the ft.com Aug 9. And in Purang County, seven areas were designated as medium-risk areas for Covid-19.

Given China’s zero-Covid policy, both the cities conducted mass testing, canceled group events, suspended dine-in services and shut down indoor entertainment, cultural and sports venues. Supermarkets, banks and other places that ensure people’s daily lives will shorten their business hours and suspend large-scale gatherings to implement strict epidemic prevention and control measures, said the globaltimes.cn report.

Lhasa was reported to have designated one high-risk and 15 middle-risk regions while Purang County, a resort city at the border of Tibet, India and Nepal, has named seven places, including four temples, a hotel, a hot pot restaurant and a border trade market, as middle-risk and put them under Covid-19 prevention control. Close contacts of all the infected persons are under centralized quarantine.

Besides, the opening ceremony of TAR’s 13th sports meet, which was scheduled to be held on Aug 8 in Nyingtri (Nyingchi) city, was suspended to prevent gatherings, said the chinadaily.com.cn report. However, the games will be held as normal, but without spectators.

Citing Lu Hongzhou, head of the Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen, the globaltimes.cn report said the cities of Shigatse and Lhasa as well as Purang County were tourist hotspots, which attract numerous visitors from across the People’s Republic of China, especially during the summer vacation.

The report cited Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based medical expert, as saying that a zero-Covid status could be achieved within two to three weeks if a city reported several individual cases detected through nucleic acid screening and implemented very strict anti-epidemic measures.

Before the four cases detected in Ngari, TAR had reported only one Covid case during the past three years. He was a traveller from Wuhan in Central China’s Hubei Province, the origin of the global pandemic’s outbreak.

He recovered after 18 days of medical treatment and TAR had remained free of the pandemic for 920 days as of Aug 6.

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