New Delhi: The first case of Covid-19 has been reported in one of Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, which houses nearly a million of them in various parts of the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and local health authorities confirmed the development Thursday. While the country’s health officials initially said two refugees have been put into isolation, the WHO later confirmed that one case was of a Rohingya and another of a local person who lived near the camp and was being treated at a clinic inside the area.
The Rohingya refugee camps are in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the two reported cases were identified from health facilities within the Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya, which is in the country’s Chittagong division.
WHO spokesperson Catalin Becaru said that rapid investigation teams have been deployed to follow up on the cases and the patients’ contacts were being traced for quarantine and testing.
Mahbub Alam, the refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, also said that both patients have been taken to an isolation centre.
Thousands of Rohingyas from the Rakhine State of Myanmar had fled to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area in August 2017, following a systemic discrimination, statelessness and targeted violence against them since 1978. Entire villages have been burnt down, families separated and killed, and women gang raped.
With more than 7.4 lakh Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh from Myanmar, it has been regarded as the largest and fastest refugee influx into Bangladesh. Cox’s Bazar is now the world’s largest refugee camp.
According to the United Nations, till March 2019, more than 9 lakh stateless Rohingya refugees were living in these camps in Bangladesh.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Bangladeshi authorities were forced to slash the camp presence of aid organisations by 80 per cent. Dr Mahbubur Rahman, who is the civil surgeon at Cox’s Bazar, has been quoted as saying that just about 150 Rohingyas have been tested so far.
“Tracing of coronavirus in the camps is worrying because it will be very difficult to contain the outbreak due to the overcrowded condition of the camp,” he said.
International organisations had in the past warned about the disastrous effect that a Covid-19 outbreak at the camps could have.
The novel coronavirus has so far infected more than 18,000 people in Bangladesh and led to over 280 deaths.