Dharamshala: At the 15th COVID-19 press briefing today, the Health department’s Additional Secretary Jampa Phuntsok and Dr Tsamchoe and Dr Tsundue of CTA COVID-19 Task Force gave the latest updates on COVID-19 status in Tibetan community and clarified public confusions and misconceptions regarding the disease.

Updating on the COVID-19 status this week, Dr Tsamchoe said 7 new cases have been detected in Tibetan settlements across India.

The details are: 2 cases from Ladakh Sonamling settlement—a 24-year-old and a 22-year-old female with no noticeable symptoms who are receiving treatment in the local COVID care centre.

1 case from Dharamsala: 27-year-old female with no symptoms and is undergoing treatment at COVID care centre.

4 cases from Delhi: a 29-year-old female, 28-year-old female, a 24-year-old female and a 27-year-old male with mild symptoms. All 4 are under home isolation according to the data received by the data monitoring committee.

Currently, the total case stands at 60 cases in exile Tibetan community of India and Nepal, of which 2 have deceased, 43 recovered and 15 active cases. With no further updates by the Representatives of the Offices of Tibet based abroad, the status of Tibetans abroad remains unchanged.

The monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms at the centre and settlements is in progress, with 1883 people covered in the thermal tests conducted by appointed members from every organisation like the Settlement offices, CTA and monasteries in Dharamsala.

Across 35 settlements in India, 7420 people have been tested, of which 5792 are above the age of 60 and 1628 with comorbidities.

Sowarigpa immunity-booster package has been distributed in 23 settlements. So far, 1135 Tibetans in quarantine; 7932 elders above age 60, 1232 Tibetans in Nepal, 530 Tibetans abroad, 241 healthcare workers and frontline volunteers, 74 with comorbidities making a total of 11,144 beneficiaries of SORIG Immunity-boosters.

Health department’s initiative to provide online training relating to COVID-19 treatment, precautions and guidelines for hospital and testing procedure is ongoing with 3rd session completed, covering 127 professionals from settlement health centres including 9 doctors, 65 nurses, 13 healthcare workers, 19 dentists and directors and 21 volunteers. The sessions have been uploaded on Youtube.

This week, 23 Tibetan returnees facilitated in 3 community quarantine centres in Dharamshala have undergone tests with kits facilitated by the HP District government and none tested positive.

The Mental health committee has reached out to 580 of 722 Tibetans in quarantine centres across settlements and provided counselling and guidance.

WHO guidelines regarding COVID-19 are translated into Tibetan and published on the Health department’s website (tibetanhealth.org). LIkewise, Mental health guidance from Nimhans institute is available as well.

Dr Tsamchoe also spoke about the five precautionary measures according to SORIG practice which is based on diet, behaviour, spiritual chants, incense and other practices.

Next, Health department’s Additional Secretary Jampa Phuntsok and Dr Tsundue of Delek hospital addressed misconceptions and doubts concerning COVID-19 among people.

The first question was on the use of facemask which some feared limited oxygen intake and poisoned the body.

Dr Tsundue clarified that this was untrue, however adding that people with respiratory issues, infants and special needs individuals might face some difficulty depending on the type of masks.

Next, on the subject of whether the virus is airborne, the doctor explained that while it is confirmed that air droplets are the cause for transmission, studies are still underway on whether it is an airborne virus or not.

Dr Tsundue also noted that the 70-80 percent of positive cases reported so far were asymptomatic and hence this raises the suspicion that some tests could be faulty as multiple tests have shown mixed results.

In terms of recovery, he said the majority of recoveries are due to strengthening of the immune system.

To those who believe, asymptomatic people do not cause transmission because of their lack of symptoms, Dr Tsundue rejected this view.

He said without a drug or vaccine, precautions are the only solution at the moment.

Simple practices like regularly washing hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water, maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others, avoiding crowded places or touching eyes, nose and mouth and following good respiratory hygiene can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19.

Additional Secretary moreover prevailed upon Tibetans to not ignore precautions because of the ease in lockdowns and emphasised individual responsibility for the safety of the whole community.
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Visit CTA’s official COVID-19 Emergency Relief Committee website for details.

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