DHAKA: Authorities in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, which is home to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees, reinforced a two-week lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said Saturday.
The disease has killed 846 people in Bangladesh and the total number of infections as of Saturday was 63,026, with 29 people testing positive for the virus and one death reported at the refugee camps.
“In the past couple of days we have noticed a sudden boom in the virus infection rate in the district, which prompted us to reinforce a very strict lockdown again,” Shajahan Ali, additional district magistrate of Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News. He said that the doubling down would include dividing the area into different parts, with no entry allowed in the “red zone.”
“To make the lockdown truly effective vehicles’ movements will be restricted. People from outside Cox’s Bazar will not be allowed to enter the city. Kitchen markets will remain open for several hours only on Sundays and Thursdays. Banks will also follow the same,” he added.
Overburdened and with limited facilities available, district officials have been struggling with a sudden spike in infections.
Authorities were working around the clock to strengthen relief operations in the district to ease the suffering of refugees grappling with the restrictions, Ali said.
“In addition to the regular social safety net program, we have included 200,000 more people under the relief support network. Considering the long-time impact of the coronavirus, this support program is designed for four months starting from May.”
Authorities resumed testing for the virus after halting the process for two days in the area as it was undergoing disinfection, said Dr. Abu Toha Bhuyan, health coordinator of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission.
“Considering a huge population of 1.7 million host communities and 1 million Rohingya refugees, now we are working hard to increase the testing facilities in the district,” he told Arab News. “Also, with the two current lab facilities, we will launch another lab very soon at Teknaf sub-district, which holds several hundred thousand Rohingyas.”
Authorities are looking to establish an intensive care unit and a high dependency unit by June 21 to provide emergency care to critical patients.
“We can’t predict the situation at this moment about how far worse it might be at the overcrowded Rohingya camps,” Bhuyan said. “But till now the situation is very much under control. Many Rohingyas are now aware of the importance of social distancing and cleanliness in case of any coronavirus suspect.”
He added that there was “definitely” room for improvement to strengthen health and safety awareness among refugees, and that there was an emergency meeting on Sunday to work out the issues such as social distancing which was “almost impossible to maintain among the refugees” due to space constraints.
A refugee family comprising seven to eight people live in a tent of just 120 square feet.
Bhuyan said it was harrowing for refugees to keep all family members, including children inside, with the onset of summer and sweltering conditions.