Dharamshala: In an exclusive interview with Tibet News Bureau’s host Tenzin Wangchuk earlier Tuesday, CTA’s Department of Health answered some pressing COVID-19 questions and spoke in detail the situation of COVID-19 in the Tibetan community and how the precautionary measures and relief initiatives, implemented by the CTA and Department of Health in particular, has succeeded in containing the dreaded novel coronavirus in the Tibetan community. Watch the interview here.
The outbreak and the rapid spread of the COVID-19 have sent the world into a state of frenzy from which no country could emerge unscathed. Nations across the world, even the most affluent, are struggling inconceivably due to the Wuhan origin COVID-19 that has disrupted the political, social, economic, and religious activities everywhere.
Countries are mobilising and doing their best in controlling the outbreak through strict measures but the viral pandemic can only be defeated if every country in the world joins in the concerted fight against the virus.
Despite being one of the least confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Tibetan community under the leadership of CTA, particularly the Health department, has made every effort to curb the coronavirus situation within its community.
In the wake of the rapid spread of COVID-19, the Department of Health has prioritised its COVID-19 initiatives above its regular commitments.
Featuring in the interview, Additional Secretary Jampa Phuntsok, Deputy Secretary Nyima Gyaltsen, and Under Secretary Tsewang Yangtso of the Department of Health spoke on a host of issues: prevention programs and measures, distribution of Tibetan herbal medicines for immunity, and special coronavirus provisions from CTA among other things.
Jampa Phuntsok updated the efforts of the Department of Health to tackle COVID-19. In order to promote transparency to efforts and actions taken by CTA’s to combat COVID-19, CTA has established an emergency response team-CTA’s Task Force for the Wuhan-originated COVID-19, and CTA Emergency Task Force. Besides these two committees, there are many subcommittees within the Department of Health that are exclusively set up to focus on the COVID related problems such as the Steering Committee led by Secretary Palden Dhondup, Additional Secretary Jampa Phuntsok, Jt. Secretary Tsering Youdon. This committee oversees all the other committees of the department and ensures timely execution of the activities and programs.
Active Screening and Surveillance Committee of the Dept. of Health monitors the health status of Tibetans living in India and Nepal by coordinating and collecting data of those under quarantine with the goal of ensuring early case detection. Mental Health committee is another initiative that offers Tele-counseling helpline service on mental health problems. Other committees include Immunity Booster Distribution Committee- undertakes the distribution of Tibetan medicines prescribed by senior Sorig doctors headed by Dr Tsewang Thamdin of (TMAI), especially, for boosting immunity. A total of 432 Tibetans from 20 different settlements in India have received the above medicines so far. Mr Jampa clarified that this particular medicine is simply for building immune and not a remedy for COVID as many may misconceive. And Procurement Committee, that is responsible for facilitating the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 response in the Tibetan settlements.
Health staff Nyima Gyaltsen spoke on the successful arrangements of community quarantine centres in the Tibetans as per the directive of the Health Department. The Health Department has fulfilled them-beds, food supplies, hiring of cooks, etc. Currently, around 83 community quarantine facilities are available across settlements, with only 1 settlement unable to manage due to a lack of space. Amidst the high risk of spread with the return of many stranded residents, PPEs and facemasks have been distributed to frontline workers. A total of 865 PPEs including N-95 masks and gloves have been provided by the Health Department. Ambulances have been arranged at 16 settlements while 7 settlements have rental arrangements, and in 13 settlements makeshift rubber partitions were installed for safety within the vehicles. Mr Gylatsen added that the settlement officers have proactively met with the concerned COVID-19 officials for assurance of aid from the host government in case of a crisis.
The Health Department has procured disinfectant supplies for all the settlements in India. Sanitisation drive programme was initially conducted in March at public spaces like health centres, offices, old people’s homes, later, it became settlement-wide in May-end. The sanitisation programme across settlements is divided into 3 levels based on the scale of risk with red zones conducting whole-settlement disinfection, while orange zones are instructed to disinfect large public spaces like health centres, offices and three-way roads, with green zones left to the discretion of settlements. The public has been urged to conduct sanitisation at their individual homes by the department as it is logistically impossible for the administration to cover. Stranded Tibetans returning to their homes are strongly urged to check into quarantine centres on arrival as situation demands, for the safety of their family, friends, and community.
Tsewang Yangtso enumerated the Health department’s first response to the pandemic, such as the publishing of WHO-issued COVID-19 guidance in accessible Tibetan posters at settlement health centres, adding that settlements under the Health department had been widely successful in sharing guidance about COVID-19 preventive measures among monasteries, health centres, and the general public. Similarly, directives issued from WHO are accordingly translated into Tibetan and sent out to the settlements regularly. The Health department has facilitated a panel discussion on Tibet TV in January, concerning COVID-19 preventive measures from both Tibetan and Western medicinal traditions, presided over by His Holiness’s personal physician, Dr Tamdin, and Delek hospital’s Dr Tsundue.
Ms Yangsto shared that under the Health Department’s lead, active screening is ongoing across settlements, covering every home with wide dissemination of guidance measures.
Visit CTA’s official COVID-19 Emergency Relief Committee website for details.