The novel coronavirus has been detected in one of the camps in southern Bangladesh that are home to more than a million Rohingya refugees, according to officials.
An ethnic Rohingya refugee and a local person tested positive for COVID-19, a senior Bangladeshi official and a United Nations spokeswoman said on Thursday. It was the first confirmed case in the densely populated camps as humanitarian groups warned the infection could devastate the crowded settlement.
“Today, they need been taken to an isolation centre after they tested positive,” Mahbub Alam Talukder, the refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told the Reuters press agency by telephone.
The other patient was from the “host population”, a term usually wont to ask locals living outside the camps, the UN spokeswoman said.
“One patient is from the refugee population and therefore the other one from the encompassing host population,” WHO spokesman Catalin Bercaru told the AFP press agency .
Bercaru said “rapid investigation teams” were being deployed to follow abreast of the 2 cases, adding that the patients’ contacts are being traced for quarantine and testing.
Coronavirus infections are gathering pace in recent days in Bangladesh, which has reported 18,863 cases of COVID-19 and 283 deaths thus far .
The government enforced a nationwide lockdown on March 26 in an attempt to see the spread of the disease. Despite the shutdown, the amount of cases has risen sharply in recent days and therefore the daily price and new infections hit a record on Wednesday.
In early April, authorities imposed an entire lockdown after variety of cases were found in Cox’s Bazar district, restricting all traffic in and out of the camps.
Bangladesh authorities also forced aid organisations to slash their camp presence by 80 percent.
Rights groups and activists have expressed concerns that the camps are hotspots of misinformation about the pandemic due to an online ban imposed last September.
As many as 60,000-90,000 people are jammed into each square kilometre, with families of up to a dozen sharing small shelters.
Dr Shamim Jahan, health director for the international aid group Save the youngsters , said things was alarming.
“The virus has entered the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar,” he said. “We are watching the very real prospect that thousands of individuals may die from COVID-19. This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades.”
Jahan also expressed concern over limited healthcare capacity within the country, saying: “There are only an estimated 2,000 ventilators altogether of Bangladesh, serving a population of 160 million people. within the Rohingya refugee camps, there are not any medical care beds at this moment.”
Meanwhile, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said the outbreak must function “a wake-up call” for Bangladesh to lift internet restrictions within the camps.
“The blackout isn’t just preventing aid groups from doing their jobs, but also blocking refugees from accessing life-saving information,” said Tun Khin, president of BROUK.
More than 730,000 Rohingya arrived from Buddhist-majority Myanmar in late 2017 after fleeing a military crackdown.
Myanmar is facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice within the Hague over the violence.