A 71-year-old Rohingya man who died on the weekend has posthumously tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first resident of crowded refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh known to have succumbed to the disease, health officials said Tuesday.
The grim milestone came less than three weeks after the first Rohingya refugee tested positive for coronavirus. By Tuesday, the number of Rohingya infected at the camps had increased to 29.
“The old man was admitted to a health center at the Kutupalong camp after suffering from coronavirus symptoms on May 30 and died that night,” Dr. Abu Toha M.R.H. Bhuiyan, health coordinator of the Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRRC), told BenarNews.
“Doctors collected a sample for testing and the result was found to be positive today.”
Nine members of the man’s family have been placed in isolation and are being monitored, Dr. Toha said, joining close to 200 other Rohingya in quarantine due to exposure to infected people.
A neighbor said the deceased man had long suffered from high blood pressure and kidney complaints.
“Nobody realized that he was suffering from coronavirus. The news came as a shock to us,” Mohammad Shafi, a Rohingya school teacher, told AFP.
“In recent weeks a lot of people in the camps are suffering from fever, headache and body pain. But most think they got sick because of the change of weather. They don’t bother to get tested for coronavirus,” he was quoted as saying.
New spike in cases nationwide
Authorities say they have taken extensive precautions to contain infections in the refugee camps, which are home to more than 1.1 million Rohingya. Most of them fled from neighboring Myanmar following a military crackdown in August 2017.
With the support of international agencies and relief groups, the government is preparing facilities containing 1,900 beds to treat potential Rohingya patients. About 8,500 hand-washing centers have been set up at camp entrances, said Saikat Biswas, a spokesman for the Inter Sector Coordination Group, which oversees humanitarian aid to refugees in southeast Bangladesh.
Across Bangladesh, COVID-19 infections and deaths have been increasing sharply, even as the government on Sunday allowed businesses and offices to reopen on a limited scale, and mass transit to operate with social distancing protocols. Only educational institutions remain closed.
Steadily rising daily infection rates nationwide hit a new high of 2,911 on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative tally to 52,445.
Meanwhile, 37 new deaths brought the overall COVID-19 death toll to 709, according to a daily update from Nasima Sultana of the Directorate General of Health Services.
Globally, more than 6.3 million people had been infected by COVID-19 and more than 377,000 had died as of Tuesday, according to data compiled by disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.