Lhasa, Aug 13 (IANS): Authorities in Xinjiang are threatening those who flout quarantine laws with as many as three weeks of detention amid a new outbreak of Covid-19 in the region that has seen infections rise sharply since the start of the month, media reports said.
The warning comes as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) capital Lhasa entered a three-day state of de facto lockdown amid a growing number of Covid-19 cases in the city, RFA reported.
On Friday, authorities announced that they had documented 410 new asymptomatic COVID-19 infections in Xinjiang, bringing the total to 1,727, as the region continues to grapple with a new outbreak that has led to strict lockdowns.
An official in Qorghas county's Langar township, who oversees 10 families in Yengiavat village, told RFA that authorities have been conducting street patrols to ensure that nobody is leaving their homes during an ongoing lockdown in the area and informing residents that they would be detained for up to three weeks if they do, RFA reported.
"We are informing the residents that those who violate the system, that is, those who go out on the streets, will be punished and sent to 15-20 days of ?re-education'," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, using a common euphemism for detention in the region.
In the TAR, where authorities say they had documented 20 symptomatic and 127 asymptomatic COVID-19 infections as of Friday, officials in the capital Lhasa ordered a citywide "disinfection" operation from August 12-15, during which people are not to leave their homes, RFA reported.
Sources in the city said the order amounted to a de facto three-day lockdown, although officials have refrained from using the term.
Those who have been confirmed positive are being quarantined and public testing is underway, they said, although authorities have failed to ensure that residents maintain proper distancing when they do so.
"Since Covid cases are rising in Lhasa and a few other regions, people who stayed in hotels and lodges in these areas and may have contact with the infected are now quarantining for safety," a source in Tibet told RFA.
"People are being subjected to continuous testing, Potala Palace and other religious sites are shut down, schools have postponed their reopening, and people are stocking up on groceries and buying face masks."
Meanwhile, the summer tourism season is in full swing in Lhasa - despite concerns that the outbreak there is linked to visitors to the region - with Chinese travelers arriving in droves by plane, train, and car from other parts of China, the source said, RFA reported.
"Tibetan religious pilgrims seeking to visit Lhasa from around the region are having difficulty obtaining travel permits, while Chinese tourists have no issue obtaining passes to visit Tibet," he added.