News

Tibet, Hainan move to contain virus

By: CHINA DAILY
Updated: Aug. 10, 2022
 
People wear masks (left) on a major street in Lhasa, Tibet autonomous region, on Tuesday, as mass testing takes place in the city (right). [Photo by KUNGA LESANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]
 
New cases detected on plateau; flights scheduled for stranded tourists on island
 
Seven people tested positive on Tuesday in Ngari prefecture and Shigatse city in the Tibet autonomous region, according to statements released by local health authorities on Tuesday afternoon.
 
Among the seven newly discovered infections, five are from Shigatse´╝Źtwo confirmed and three asymptomatic. The other two are from Ngari's Burang county, both asymptomatic.
 
According to a news conference in the regional capital Lhasa on Tuesday morning, the 18 people who tested positive on Sunday in the city have been identified as being infected with the highly contagious Omicron variant.
 
Yan Zhouzhong, the deputy director of Lhasa's health commission, said the spread of the virus was the result of gatherings, and that the current outbreak displayed three characteristics.
 
"First, the strain in question is Omicron subvariant BA.2.76, and second, the epidemiological survey and investigation show that the outbreak has been imported," said Yan, who added that third, the outbreak was the result of a family gathering.
 
"Now, all 18 patients have been hospitalized. They are in stable condition, without obvious discomfort, and in a good psychological condition," said Zhou.
 
Lhasa's Potala Palace, a World Heritage Site, was closed to visitors on Tuesday to prevent transmission, according to a statement on its official website.
 
As of Tuesday evening, Tibet had four confirmed cases and 25 asymptomatic infections, breaking its 920-day infection-free streak.
 
Separately in Hainan province, a charter flight left Sanya Phoenix International Airport on Tuesday afternoon, taking 125 tourists stranded by the island's latest outbreak back home to Xi'an in Shaanxi province, according to local authorities.
 
More return journey arrangements are being made for tourists who pass their health checks and who have been stranded on the island by the outbreak.
 
A system for handling applications for return tickets will be operational from Wednesday, according to a notice from the Hainan provincial COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control headquarters, which was issued on Tuesday afternoon.
 
The notice stated that tourists in areas that have not been affected can apply to leave the island upon producing two negative nucleic acid tests within 48 hours; while those in low-risk areas may resume their return journeys with the provision of three negative nucleic acid test results within 72 hours and screening to ensure they don't show symptoms of infection.
 
As of midnight on Sunday, there were 177,900 tourists in Hainan. Of them, some 57,000 are still in Sanya, with 43,000 confined to hotels, according to data from Hainan Provincial Health Commission.
 
As of noon on Tuesday, Hainan had registered 1,314 confirmed cases and 585 asymptomatic infections since the first case was reported in Sanya on Aug 1. The latest outbreak has affected 13 cities and counties across the island so far, according to the Hainan Provincial Health Commission.
 
"The current situation is complex and severe but the epidemic is developing at a slower speed," Li Wenxiu, deputy director of the Hainan Provincial Health Commission, told a news conference in Haikou on Tuesday afternoon. He said that the province is confident and will do all it can to overcome difficulties and ensure zero community transmission in the near future.
 
Support teams from the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism, backed by more than 9,440 medical workers from 19 provinces and regions, have been sent to help with prevention and control work in Hainan, Li said.

By MA ZHIPING in Haikou and PALDEN NYIMA in Lhasa