Confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Sichuan’s Tawu county have now climbed to 57, with seven new cases reported on Feb. 16 and five reported on Feb. 17, according to official Chinese health department reports.
The jump in numbers brings to 62 the total of confirmed infections in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in which Tibetan-populated Tawu (Daofu) is located, the Kardze Prefecture Health Commission said.
Tawu county is now second only to Hubei province, where the infection first began to spread, as the area of China hardest-hit by coronavirus infection.
In response to the rising number of infections, county Public Security Bureau officials and traffic police on Feb. 17 imposed an area travel ban, closing a stretch of Highway 305 running from Tawu’s Palme township to the area of Khangsar, official media said.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, a staff worker at the Tawu County People’s Hospital declined to answer questions about the county’s current situation, saying, “Of course we have patients here, but if you want to know more about this, don’t call here,” before hanging up the phone,
On Feb. 17, the Kardze People’s Hospital released a video showing three patients, two of them Han Chinese and the third an ethnic Tibetan, who were being discharged from treatment after recovering from infections.
Meanwhile, around 370 people who had been in close contact with persons confirmed to be infected are being held in quarantine under close medical observation, official Chinese sources said.
Six hospitals have now been designated for the treatment of coronavirus patients in Tawu, according to a Kham TV report on Feb. 14, though a Tibetan living in exile and originally from Tawu called the medical facilities in the county “very poor.”
“The so-called Chinese designated hospitals are not really hospitals at all,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They are makeshift hospitals operating in the county’s hotels, and many people who are suspected to have been infected are being kept together for days in crowded spaces, which is posing an extra risk of the virus’s spread,” he said.
Tibetan medical staff from areas outside Tawu are meanwhile volunteering to travel to the hard-hit county to help handle the outbreak, Adruk Tseten, a Tibetan living in India and with contacts in the region, said on a Facebook posting last week.
“There is a high demand for medical professionals in Tawu,” Tseten said, adding that many Tibetan doctors and nurses from Sichuan’s Lithang (Litang) county have already applied for permission to serve patients in Tawu.
“They signed some petitions, and the first batch of medical staff have already arrived,” Tseten said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.