The overcrowded Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar reported its first case of COVID-19, according to a local health coordinator on Thursday. The infected person from one of the 34 camps, where more than a million persecuted Rohingyas from Myanmar reside, has been sent to an isolation centre.
The local health coordinator, Abu Toha Bhuiyan, initially said two refugees had been put into isolation. The World Health Organization later said one case was of a Rohingya man and the other was of a local man who lived near the camp and was being treated at a clinic inside the area.
“One patient is from the refugee population and the other one from the surrounding host population,” said Catalin Bercaru, a WHO spokesman.
Bercaru said rapid investigation teams were being deployed to follow up on the two cases. The patients’ contacts are being traced for quarantine and testing. Local authorities said prevention measures and testing were being stepped up.
Health experts have been warning for some time that the virus could race through the sprawling, unsanitary camps that have been home to the refugees since they fled a military offensive in Myanmar more than two years ago.
In early April authorities imposed a complete lockdown on the surrounding Cox’s Bazar district after a number of cases, restricting all traffic in and out of the camps. Bangladesh authorities also forced aid organisations to slash their camp presence by 80%.
Rights groups and activists have expressed concerns that the camps are hotspots of misinformation about the pandemic because of an internet ban imposed last September.
The first coronavirus case was confirmed in Bangladesh in early March and since then at least 283 people have died with nearly 19,000 infected – figures some experts say understate the true scale of the health crisis.
The government has enforced a nationwide lockdown since March 26 in an effort to check the spread of the disease. Despite the shutdown, the number of cases has risen sharply in recent days and the daily death toll and new infections hit a record on Wednesday. (Source: The Guardian)