By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 17: The COVID-19 has claimed the lives of five people and has infected over 850 people in various provinces in the region encompassing occupied Tibet till date, according to a website called Gangjong Nyeshon that keeps track of the virus’s toll.
The site which updates its data every few hours showed the hardest hit province to be Sichuan with 495 confirmed cases (147 of them cured) and 3 deaths. Within the province, Tawu county is worst hit with 38 cases. The Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama responded to the people of Tawu through a letter where he advised them to collectively adopt precautionary measures and to chant the Tara mantra.
Gansu province registered 90 confirmed cases (54 cured) and 2 deaths. The site also showed Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of having 57 confirmed cases of the virus. Other areas such as Qinghai’s Tsojang Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu’s Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, among others also registered several cases.
The rising number of cases in occupied Tibet is further marred by the handling of the same by the Chinese authorities with several Tibetans detained and questioned in the last few weeks on charges of “spreading rumour” regarding the COVID-19 as well as banning religious and festivals citing danger of spreading the ailment. Pro-Tibet lobby and awareness group International Campaign for Tibet said that China has put “party before health” and that emphasis have been kept to portray and strengthen “compliance and stability” at the expense of public awareness and transparency.
China’s lack of transparency in revealing crucial data and information about the extent of the epidemic has contributed to its spread beyond its borders, observers say. A senior White House official has urged Beijing to be more open while handling of the coronavirus outbreak. “We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been invited in and we’re a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese,” said Larry Kudlow, the director of the US National Economic Council.
Till date, the death toll in mainland China reached 1,770, with at least 70,548 total cases reported. Independent studies like that of University of Hong Kong suggest that real numbers of infection and death toll could be ten times higher than that revealed by China.