Rohingyas added to Covid-19 woe in Bangladesh

After detection of three more cases on Friday, total four cases of COVID 19 was reported from overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar that host about one million Rohingya refugees.

Aid groups have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster, while Bangladesh is already perilled with the widespread of the contagious disease.

Fifteen people have died with coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours while the total number of infected has crossed the grim milestone of 20,000, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said Friday.

The death toll now stands at 298, said Prof Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general (administration) of DGHS, during her regular online briefing.

The total number of infected has reached 20,065 as 1,202 more people were found Corona positive after testing 8,582 samples in 41 labs across the country in the last 24 hours since Thursday, Dr Nasima said.

Rohingya refugees

Cox’s Bazar Medical College Principal Professor Dr Anupom Barua said, “The infected Rohingya men, who live in the overcrowded refugee camps in Ukhiya upazila of Cox’s Bazar, are currently being treated in Balukhali isolation centre.”

“The health authorities collected samples from 184 suspected Covid-19 patients on Thursday to run tests for coronavirus. Among them, 23 people, including 3 Rohingya men tested positive for the Covid-19 on Friday,” he added.

The samples were collected from eight upazilas of Cox’s Bazar, 34 Rohingya camps, Naikhongchari upazila of Bandarban, and Lohagora upazila of Chittagong, said the Principal.

At least, 3,587 samples were tested at the PCR lab of  Cox’s Bazar Medical College  in the last 44 days. Among them, 166 have tested positive for the coronavirus till Friday, added Anupom Barua.

Earlier, on Thursday, the overcrowded Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar reported the first case of Covid-19.

More than one million Rohingya people are currently staying at 34 camps in Cox’s Bazar since they fled persecution by Myanmar military in the Rakhine State.

Humanitarian groups warn the virus could race through the camps, where families live with up to 10 people in a room in sweltering heat, with limited access to clean water. Households are forced to queue to access food at communal distribution points, making social distancing impossible.

On top of overcrowding, many refugees, who fled persecution in Myanmar, have underlying health conditions or have not received standard immunisations, according to health experts.

The charity Médicins Sans Frontières warned that before Covid-19, around a third of patients it treated presented with respiratory tract symptoms, such as shortness of breath, meaning they are at higher risk of the disease. Health services for those who get sick is limited.

Mohammad Selim, 36, whose family of six live in the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, said people were very fearful. “Everyone is talking about how there are one or two confirmed cases of in the camp. From what I’ve heard about this disease, this is it, ” he said.

NGOs have been sharing health guidance, he added, but he worries that the virus will spread easily as people move within or between the 34 camps that host refugees. “People are going in and out of the camps freely. They are creating gatherings, the local tea-stalls are crowded. That’s not good,” said Mohammad Selim. He tries to keep his four children inside the home, a room divided by a mud wall, but it is difficult to keep them indoors at all times, he added.

The lockdown has been tightened following the confirmation of new cases, according Shafi Ullah, a community leader in Kutupalong camp. He urged the authorities to lift the ban on internet services. “This will help our people…the internet is a massive source of information,” he said.

Testing began in the Cox’s Bazar district in early April and, as of Thursday, 108 refugees have been tested. “Once a case is confirmed we have rapid investigation teams, different health professionals and people trained in contact tracing who will investigate the case. This is happening now,” said Louise Donovan, spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency.

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