Bangladesh detects first coronavirus case among Rohingya refugees

Dhaka, May 14 (efe-epa) – Bangladesh on Thursday confirmed the first coronavirus case among the Rohingya refugees after managing to keeping the crowded refugee camps in the south of the country free from the disease for weeks.

“Today we have found two cases in the refugee camp area. One of them is a refugee: a man in his 30s. We are trying to confirm the identity of the other person,” Mahbubur Rahman, the health chief of Bangladesh’s southern Cox’s Bazar district, told EFE.

Rahman said that authorities had already made the necessary preparations to face a potential COVID-19 outbreak among the Rohingya people living in camps in the country.

“We have 200 isolation beds ready for the refugees and other preparations also have been taken. We will now take the infected refugee to an isolation facility in the camp,” he said.

Quoting Bangladesh authorities, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that the second infected person belonged to the Bangladeshi host community in the area.

Both had presented themselves to health facilities run by the agency’s humanitarian partners in the Ukhiya region, where samples were taken, Louise Donovan, a UNHCR spokesperson in Cox’s Bazar, told EFE.

She added that following the lab confirmation of the virus, rapid investigation teams have been activated to investigate cases, initiate isolation and treatment of patients as well as contact tracing.

“Established procedures are in place to respond to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the host as well as refugee population of Cox’s Bazar,” Donovan said.

Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees have been living in camps in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017, following a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN has described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.

The UNHCR said that 108 refugees have been tested for the coronavirus so far since the beginning of the process in the Cox’s Bazar district in April.

An Amnesty International report in April had warned that older Rohingya women and men in the camps were in imminent danger due to the epidemic and some of them had not received information or care to tackle the disease, claims which were refuted by the authorities.

The camps have already witnessed outbreaks of diseases such as measles and diphtheria on earlier occasions, as per data provided by the Netherlands-based non-profit Medicines Sans Frontiers.

Bangladesh on Thursday reported 1,041 new COVID-19 positive cases within the last 24 hours, taking the total number of patients to 18,863.

The country also reported 14 deaths during the period, pushing the death toll to 283 as the government extended the ongoing lockdown measures until May 30. EFE-EPA


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