5 Rohingya refugee camps under lockdown in Bangladesh after Covid-19 outbreak

Dhaka, May 21 (EFE).- Bangladesh on Friday imposed lockdown in five of the 34 Rohingya camps in the southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar after detecting a sharp increase in coronavirus cases among the refugees living there.

“Some restrictions in Rohingya camps were already in place. Due to an increase in transmission, more restrictions were imposed in five camps until further instruction,” Bangladesh’s deputy commissioner for refugees, relief and repatriation, Mohammad Shamsuddoha, told EFE.

“Until now we have allowed people (inside) for providing food, medical, hygiene and some emergency services in the camp. Now only food and medical services will be allowed and that with bare minimum people. For other services, we have to be consulted. Inter-camp movement will also remain restricted,” he added.

The UN and Bangladesh authorities have so far been largely successful in keeping the Covid-19 outbreak in check in the densely populated Rohingya refugee camps despite a soaring number of cases in other areas of the country.

Pankaj Paul, an official at the government health office in Cox’s Bazar, told EFE that the district recorded 9,461 Covid-19 cases and 105 deaths since March 2020, when the pandemic hit the country.

Only 913 Rohingyas were among those infected by the virus in the district, while 12 deaths were recorded among the refugees so far, he stressed.

Of these cases, 119 have been recorded in the Rohingya camps in the last three days, according to Paul.

“We have recorded 45 cases each on Wednesday and Thursday among the Rohingyas. These are highest single-day cases,” he said.

Experts are of the opinion that the number of Rohingyas infected by the highly infectious virus is significantly higher than what the official figures reveal.

“It is just the tip of the iceberg. The real number of infected people in the camp is at least 10 times higher,” said Anupam Barua, Principal of Cox’s Bazar Medical College Hospital and a leading figure in the fight against Covid-19 in the district.

Barua underlined that the return of people working for nonprofits in the camp after their Eid-al-Fitr break could be one of the reasons behind the recent spike in cases.

“Many NGO workers visited Covid-19 hotspots like Dhaka during the Eid holidays. They returned without being put through quarantine,” he said, adding that lax safety measures during Eid could also be a reason.

Bangladesh imposed a nationwide lockdown in April for a week in response to surging Covid-19 cases and has since then extended it in phases until May 29.

Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees are living in camps in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017, following a wave of persecution and military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar that the UN described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide. EFE


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