Coronavirus case at Rohingya refugee camps raises fears of outbreak

Officials have confirmed the first coronavirus infection of a Rohingya refugee in the sprawling camps in southern Bangladesh, where over 1 million members of the persecuted Muslim ethnic group live.

Iran Press/Asia: The novel coronavirus has been detected in one of the camps in southern Bangladesh that are home to more than one million Rohingya refugees, officials have said.

An ethnic Rohingya refugee and another person had tested positive for COVID-19, a senior Bangladeshi official and a UN spokeswoman said. It was the first confirmed case in the camps, which are more densely populated than most crowded cities on earth.

"Today they have been taken to an isolation center after they tested positive," Mahbub Alam Talukder, the Refugee Relief, and Repatriation Commissioner told Reuters news agency by phone.

The other patient was from the "host population", a term usually used to refer to locals living outside the camps, the UN spokeswoman said.

Health experts have been warning for some time that the virus could race through the sprawling, unsanitary camps that have been home to the refugees since they fled a military offensive in Myanmar more than two years ago.

Rights groups and activists have expressed concerns that the camps are hotspots of misinformation about the pandemic because of an internet ban imposed last September.

The first coronavirus case was confirmed in Bangladesh in early March and since then at least 283 people have died with nearly 19,000 infected – figures some experts say understate the true scale of the health crisis.

The government has enforced a nationwide lockdown since 26 March in an effort to check the spread of the disease. Despite the shutdown, the number of cases has risen sharply in recent days and the daily death toll and new infections hit a record on Wednesday.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since a 2017 military crackdown, which UN investigators found in August to have been carried out with genocidal intent.

The UN estimates that 10,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.


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