Dharamshala: President Dr Lobsang Sangay addressed the press this morning on the death of the first exile Tibetan infected by Wuhan-origin, Covid-19 in Dharamshala.
As he expressed his condolences and sadness over the death of the first Tibetan infected with the Wuhan virus, President Dr Sangay also said there are certain important issues for public knowledge and at the same time, clarified the events that transpired in view of the alarming concern and worry amongst the Tibetan community.
The details as briefed by the President are as follows:
The deceased Mr Tenzin Choephel, aged 69 had arrived from the US with his spouse on 15 March at 3 am in Delhi. After taking his temperature reading at the airport, he checked in a hotel in Majnu-ka-Tilla where he stayed for 5 days. At the time, many parts of Delhi were shut down, so the hotels were also vacant. The deceased left for Dharamshala on 21 March morning and reached at 6 pm, where he retired for the day.
The following day which coincided with the Janta curfew, he was taken to Balaji hospital due to deteriorating health including fever. The family had believed it was due to declining health as he was susceptible to flu and had suffered recurrent bouts of pneumonia. At Balaji hospital, the health staff suspected coronavirus infection and referred him to the Tanda hospital. He was being hospitalised and tested at Tanda when he passed away. Preliminary test results showed he had contracted the virus and was registered in the government record.
The local authorities and CM office contacted the Kalon Karma Yeshi, Department of Finance, CTA who then apprised President Dr Sangay.
The President immediately convened a meeting with the Kalons of Health, Home and Security to decide the necessary steps pertaining to the safe and proper cremation, putting the family on quarantine and gathering related information.
At the instruction of the DC office, CTA administration had arranged to remove the body from the hospital. As per Dr Sangay’s request, Delek hospital provided the ambulance service. After discussion with the family members, it was agreed that it would be most appropriate to perform cremation at the soonest. The family had also expressed their willingness to not cause any harm to the public and do what’s best in the interest of others in the community. The DC office, SDM, Tibetan settlement office and local authorities fully assisted in the proper cremation of the deceased.
The cremation took place little past midnight and lasted till 1.45 am. At 2.20 am three members of the family ie son, wife and mother were quarantined at the Tibetan Reception Centre at Khanyara.
While the removal of the body from the hospital and cremation was performed safely with least public contact, President Sangay said there’s a family who had come in contact with the deceased when they were travelling from Delhi to Dharamshala in separate taxis and the taxi drivers as well.
Dr Sangay said the family had been notified and instructed to self-quarantine.
One of the drivers of the two taxis was identified and notified by the SP office while they are still trying to find the other driver.
In Delhi, the necessary information regarding the hotel where the deceased stayed has been apprised to the Delhi government by the Settlement Office and the Bureau of HH the Dalai Lama and necessary action are being taken.
“We have determined from discussions with the DC, unless contradictory information appears later, as of now, due to the coincidence of the curfew the deceased and his family had no contact with other people,” President Dr Sangay said in the briefing.
He said the DC has also conveyed strongly to urge all Tibetans to abide by the lockdown and not step out of their homes to ensure the prevention. It was also instructed that in case individuals broke the curfew and faced punishment, the CTA would not intervene.
In this regard, President Dr Sangay appealed to the public to follow the guidelines and be cooperative during door-step interrogations and investigations by the police while collecting data on probable exposure.
“India is extremely kind to us, it is the second home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the CTA and largest Tibetan community, therefore as Tibetans, we must do all we can to facilitate the efforts and take collective responsibility in the battle against this pandemic,” he said.
The President urged the Tibetans in India to keep stationed wherever they are in this lockdown until further notice.
A Taskforce to deal with this pandemic had been established consisting of the Health Kalon, veteran doctors and former personal physicians to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dr Tsetan and Dr Tamding who are overseeing the situation. The committee would hold discussions on the matter of probable rise in cases across the Tibetan community.
President Sangay also assured Tibetans of the concern that the former physicians of His Holiness would not see any patients for the time being as this disease is on the rise.
“Gaden Phodrang is also temporarily closed as His Holiness’s wellbeing is paramount and as such, all the staff and his personal physicians are taking every care in that regard,” he said.
“Be cautious and safe. Keep elder members of family in separate quarters as a preventive measure and take every step to ensure prevention of this disease.”
“To Tibetans around the world, especially those inside Tibet, we are doing the utmost in our efforts to combat it and urge your sincere cooperation,” the President ended his remarks.
In the briefing, Dr Sangay also gave a brief profile of the deceased, describing him as a longtime public servant who dedicated his service in many Tibetan organizations and the CTA as well.
“So I request the public, on the demise of this public figure, pray for his rebirth as a Tibetan and a public servant devoted to the cause of Tibet,” said the CTA President.
Tenzin Choephel was a former officer at the Election Commission of Central Tibetan Administration. He has also served in the local assembly and Tibetan Youth Congress and have actively been involved in the political and social service throughout his life.