Bangladesh reinforces virus lockdown on Rohingya camps

The sun rises as thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar a day before wait by the road where they spent the night between refugee camps, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 10, 2017. (REUTERS)
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Updated 07 June 2020

Bangladesh reinforces virus lockdown on Rohingya camps

  • Infection spike prompts tough measures as country’s death toll reaches 846

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.”

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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.

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.


New Filipino military chief vows to enforce controversial anti-terror law

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay. (Supplied)
Updated 03 August 2020

New Filipino military chief vows to enforce controversial anti-terror law

  • Gapay said his priority would be to bring an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, based primarily in rural areas

MANILA: The new chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, on Monday assumed office with a vow to enforce the country’s recently enacted anti-terrorism law.
The controversial legislation took effect last month, despite legal challenges at the Supreme Court to stop its implementation.
It criminalizes acts that incite terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations.” The new law also grants authorities broad powers to wiretap and tag individuals and groups as terrorists and detain them without charge for up to 24 days.
“We will capitalize on this very good anti-terror law. It is comprehensive, it is proactive, and it is geared to prevent occurrence of terroristic acts,” Gapay said in his first speech as army chief.
He called on Filipinos to support the military because beside dealing with terrorism and communist insurgency, the country now faced an unseen enemy in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The army, he said, was helping the government contain the deadly virus which had infected more than 100,000 people in the Philippines and claimed at least 2,100 lives.

We will capitalize on this very good anti-terror law. It is comprehensive, it is proactive, and it is geared to prevent occurrence of terroristic acts.

Lieutenant General Gilbert I. Gapay, Commanding general, Philippine Army

Gapay said his priority would be to bring an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) — the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, based primarily in rural areas — and local terrorist groups — Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and factions of the Daulah Islamiyah — that operate mainly in the country’s south.
“There will be no let up as we continue to be at the forefront confronting all these threats. We are trained for this but still we need the support of other agencies; we need the support of our fellow Filipinos,” Gapay added.
He said the army would continue to collaborate with partner agencies and foreign counterparts in addressing domestic and regional threats, adding that it would suggest provisions to the rules and regulations of the new law to enhance intelligence sharing and strengthen maritime security to deter foreign terrorists from entering the country through its porous sea borders.
Prior to his appointment, Gapay, who replaces the retiring Gen. Felimon T. Santos, Jr., served as the 61st army commander.