Covid-19 arrives at Kutupalong Rohingya Camp, local administration fears the worst

Abdul Aziz, Cox’s Bazar::
Rohingya_Syed-Zakir-Hossain-(151)
Some 740,000 Rohingyas fled over the border to escape a bloody military crackdown in Rakhine state of Myanmar in 2017 that is thought to have killed thousands Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The district administration officials said on Thursday that two people living in or adjacent to the camps have tested positive for the coronavirus and have now been quarantined amid fears of a humanitarian disaster if the virus spreads unchecked

At least two people have tested positive for Covid-19 at Kutupalong’s Lambashia, marking the first two cases in the Rohingya refugee camps, and the district administration along with locals are living in acute fear and panic as it can transmit to millions in the densely populated area.

The incident came to light — which the health officials and international aid agents have been dreading for months — at last; the coronavirus has reached the sprawling refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of southern Bangladesh, home to roughly a million Rohingya refugees.

A large number of people were seen shopping in the Kutupalong market amid the Covid-19 lockdown in the locality

The district administration officials said on Thursday that two people living in or adjacent to the camps have tested positive for the coronavirus and have now been quarantined amid fears of a humanitarian disaster if the virus spreads unchecked.

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.

The local health coordinator, Abu Toha Bhuiyan, initially said two people –one refugee and another local from the adjacent area– had been infected and put into isolation.

The lock-down, which is marking its second month in Cox’s Bazar, has been eased by the authority in the dense and busy Kutupalong Bazar, which can now contribute to the spread of the Covid-19 infection in the area.

The thousands that are living in the camps, hundreds of NGO and international aid workers, and 350 Bengali families in the middle of the camp are counting their days in fear as the two cases can be transmitted to millions, said Helal Uddin, president of Kutupalong Bazar Management Committee.

Locals are busy selling and buying goods in the market without maintaining any health directives

Noor Mohammad, president of Ukhia Nagarik Andolon Association, considered the Covid-19 as a curse for the camp and said he does not think it is possible to control the spread of the virus within the densely populated locality.

Md Younus Arman, community leader of Kutupalong Rohingya Camp, said: “We tried to maintain the health directives provided by the Bangladeshi government. The panicked family of one of the infected people tried to flee the area and later administration were able to trace them and put them back in isolation. But if these events keep happening the whole camp will fall victim to the disease very soon,” the Rohingya man added.

Earlier on Thursday, health authorities collected samples from 184 suspected Covid-19 patients to run tests for coronavirus. Among them, 23 people, including a Rohingya man tested positive for the Covid-19 on Friday, said Cox’s Bazar Medical College Principal Professor Dr Anupom Barua.

In early April authorities imposed a complete lockdown in the surrounding Cox’s Bazar district after a number of cases, restricting all traffic in and out of the camps.

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