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Covid-19 cases, deaths reported to be surging across Tibet

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan05’23) – Like in China proper, Covid-19 cases and deaths have been surging across Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) after the authorities there lifted the draconian zero-Covid restrictions in early Dec 2022, although these are not being officially reported, said the Tibetan service of rfa.org Jan 4, citing local Tibetan sources. It said the situation was stated to be same across the rest of Tibetan territories in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The report said more than 100 people had died in Tibet’s capital Lhasa since the draconian zero-Covid restrictions were lifted on Dec 7 following widespread protests across China.

“On Jan 2 alone, 64 bodies were cremated at the Drigung Cemetery in Maldro Gongkar, with 30 cremated at the Tsemonling Cemetery, 17 at the Sera Cemetery, and another 15 at a cemetery in Toelung Dechen,” the report quoted one source as saying, referring to places in and around Lhasa Chengguan (or Municipal) district.

“Before this, only 3 to 4 bodies were cremated each day at these cemeteries in the Lhasa area,” the source has said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. China has officially not reported any death in any part of Tibet caused by the Covid pandemic so far.

The report also cited unofficial sources as saying Tibetans had also died from the Covid pandemic in historically Tibetan territories outside TAR, namely in Ngaba, Sangchu, Kardze and Lithang which are currently parts of the PRC’s Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces.

So many bodies were stated to have been brought to Ngaba’s Kirti Monastery in Sichuan that some were laid out to feed the vultures.

The report cited another source in Tibet as saying 15 elderly Tibetans had died from Dec 7 to Jan 3 in Ngaba county’s Meruma Village, Sichuan Province, alone. “But the Chinese government hasn’t offered any testing sites or facilities providing timely medical treatment, which is very concerning,” the source has added.

“We are seeing 10 to 15 bodies brought to Kirti Monastery every day so that monks can provide last rites. But around 10 Kirti monks, mostly elderly or having underlying health problems, have also died during the last four days,” the source has said.

Many were stated to have got infected and fallen ill after joining large gatherings to pray for the dead.

“There isn’t a single place in Tibet where Covid hasn’t reached,” a Tibetan living in Sichuan’s Dege county has said, requesting anonymity to avoid the attention of authorities.

“For instance, in my own region, so many people are getting sick now with symptoms like high fever, and children are not even allowed to get vaccinated, which is even more worrying,” the source has said.

Another Dege source has said everyone in his family was now sick, with no one well enough to go out to buy food.

“One member of my family was sick for the last 8 days and still hasn’t recovered. We think that it’s Covid, but we don’t have the test kits or medical facilities that would let us know for sure,” he has said.

Yet another source in Ngaba has said, “In my own circle of acquaintances, at least 40 Tibetans, many of them elderly, have died after falling sick.”

Hospitals were stated to be refusing to answer questions on the causes of the illnesses and deaths, with one in Sangchu county of Gansu province saying only that they had “a number of Covid patients” at the facility to attend to.

China’s National Health Commission announced Dec 25 that it would no longer publish daily Covid case numbers, to the expressed disappointment of the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as other countries, many of which have imposed negative test requirements on arrivals from or through China despite threats of retaliation.

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