Dharamshala: Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay today gave an update on the situation of Tibetans affected by coronavirus worldwide and particularly in Tibet.
As per information collected from media reports before March 17, there were at least 866 COVID-19 cases across all regions of Tibet, out of which 106 were said to be Tibetans.
“Not even a single Tibetan death related to novel coronavirus was reported in Tibet. This is highly unlikely,” Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay said today during a weekly press briefing.
Since it is quite possible that there may have been Covid-related deaths inside Tibet, Sikyong urged all to pray for all those who have been affected by this pandemic.
As for the Tibetans in the US, Sikyong said there are around 100 positive cases of which majority have been reported from the Tibetan community in New York. In New Jersey, he said five Tibetans have tested positive as he urged all Tibetans to take precautionary steps.
Likewise, Sikyong also notified of zero cases amongst Tibetans in India as of now. However, he pointed out not to take the current situation lightly and advised social distancing at all costs.
“Since 14 April, reported cases per day has crossed 1000 while yesterday it crossed 1500, which is indicative of a rise in the pandemic spread. Scientists are predicting that the disease will peak in the first and second weeks of May, and it is natural that it will not subside in the following weeks. May is also the harvesting and sowing season which means that farmers numbering 120 million and labourers numbering 140 million which combined is 260 million, will be out to work. Additionally, government lockdown is about to end and with business activity to resume, social distancing for a 1200 million populous region is impossible. He, therefore, strongly urged Tibetans to continue to observe lockdown, despite the rest of the country coming out. He said that in the case of 1 detected case, the whole monastery, settlement, school, old age home will be closed and there will be a manifold increase in the pandemic toll.
With May also coinciding with the sacred Saka Dawa, he requested people to fast and pray in their homes. He also asked people to keep away from declared red-zones e.g., Delhi. Mysore, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkatta.
He assured people that quarantine facilities were available in settlements, with medical workers coming home to conduct routine check-ups. He also urged people with symptoms to contact a health worker urgently and check into a quarantine facility. In Dharamshala, the Tibetan Reception Centre is the designated quarantine facility with two separate wings called Norbulingka and Potala.
Lastly, he urged Tibetans to not read coronavirus news from social media which are not reliable sources of information, which also creates difficulties for the administration when Tibetans circulate it on social media. Instead, follow government-associated media on news about the pandemic.
In addition to his address on COVID-19, Sikyong offered his condolences on the demise of the former Justice Commissioner Lobsang Khedup Drongretsang, who had passed away yesterday due to natural causes. He expressed his sadness at the demise of the dedicated and one of the longest-serving CTA officials. He gave a brief profile of the public servant whom he described as a dedicated public servant with 40 years of tenure who started out as a Settlement Officer and later worked as the Secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture. He served as Justice Commissioner before his retirement. Sikyong lauded his dedication to public service and his adherence to Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Sikyong urged people to pray for the highly esteemed public servant and expressed solidarity with the deceased’s family. He added that an arrangement to hold mourning prayers on electronic media was being made on account of social distancing as regular protocols for mourning can not be observed in this scenario.
Education Kalon Dr Pema Yangchen who also addressed the briefing spoke about how the Education department is ensuring quality education for Tibetan students despite the schools being shut down due to the pandemic.
Education Kalon also announced relief money of Rs 5000 for 200 college students who are stranded in cities due to the lockdown. To apply for the relief money, students are asked to contact Sonam Sangmo, Head of Scholarship and Sponsorship desk, DOE at 9882322797 and Tenzin Samdup at 7018111983 before 30 April.
DOE will also provide relief money of Rs 2000 for over 297 highschool students belonging to financially disadvantaged homes so they can equip themselves with internet services and access the resources online.
In response to the challenges of the current lockdown for the schools under its jurisdiction, the Department of Education has taken to digital tools to continue to provide quality education for the students from the safe distance of their homes.
It has launched daily online classes for class 6, 7 and 8 via Tibet TV. The classes are being conducted daily by experienced teachers of Upper TCV as per the scheduled arrangments.
DOE has reinvigorated its existent website https://bodyiglobjong.com/teaching/ where primary school students and parents can avail all online learning resources and there are also dedicated youtube channels such as https://www.youtube.com/user/sherigCTA/videos for the benefit of the students.
For the students with limited internet access, the Education Department is making efforts in enabling the online classes through cable TV broadcast. Efforts are also being made to ensure undisrupted learning for students of class 9 to 12.
Acknowledging the initiatives of Weekend Tibetan school teachers in Tibetan communities abroad, Kalon thanked them as many still continue to voluntarily teach students via social media despite the inconveniences of the lockdown.
Kalon concluded by urging students, parents and the public to maintain good hygiene, take special care of the elder members in the family and most importantly to observe the necessary guidelines on social distancing until the coronavirus pandemic subsides.