Bangladesh locks down Rohingya refugee camps amid coronavirus surge

Bangladesh locks down Rohingya refugee camps amid coronavirus surge
People walk along the shops in the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp area where authorities imposed lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Ukhia on May 21, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2021

Bangladesh locks down Rohingya refugee camps amid coronavirus surge

Bangladesh locks down Rohingya refugee camps amid coronavirus surge
  • Nearly a million Rohingya refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar live in 34 camps in southeastern Bangladesh
  • Bangladesh’s government has said it will include Rohingya refugees in the nation’s vaccine roll-out

DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities have imposed a lockdown at Rohingya refugee camps after a surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

Officials introduced a strict 12-day lockdown on Thursday in five camps at Cox’s Bazar district, which has 34 makeshift refugee settlements and hosts more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims. The refugees are members of an ethnic and religious minority group that fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017.

COVID-19 tests conducted over the past 24 hours revealed that 15 percent of the Rohingya tested in the camps had contracted the virus.

“We have enforced the lockdown in the most affected refugee camps. Four are in Ukhia and the other one is in the Teknaf subdistrict,” Dr. Abu Toha Bhuyan, health sector coordinator of Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, told Arab News on Friday.

He said more than 165,000 people in the five camps will be impacted by this “precautionary measure,” which was set up to curb the further spread of the virus.

“No one will be allowed to go out or enter within these camps during the lockdown days,” Bhuyan said.

“Only people providing emergency services which include food, medicine, nutrition, sanitation and gas supply will be allowed to move in during this time.”

Law enforcement checkpoints were installed inside the camps to restrict people’s movement, he said.

As for the COVID-19-related patients, two quarantine centers at the camps can accommodate up to 1,075 people while 552 beds at camp health facilities are ready to treat the more severe cases. Critical patients would be transferred from the camps to district health facilities.

Health authorities warned the actual outbreak could be worse than originally reported.

“The actual number of infections could be at least five times higher if we could increase the number of tests,” Dr. Anupam Barua, principal of Cox’s Bazar Medical College, told Arab News.

“But the Rohingyas are mostly reluctant to conduct a coronavirus test unless the symptoms become much more worrisome.”

According to Barua, his team is monitoring a possible link between the refugee camp outbreak and the emergence of a new, more infectious COVID-19 variant that was first reported in India.

“We are still not sure whether the Indian variant has spread in the camps or not,” Baruda said.

“This variant is 20 times more infectious. It may create a disastrous situation in the highly congested refugee camps, which hold more than 1 million people in only a few acres of land.”

He added: “I think a genome sequence should be conducted immediately from the samples of the Rohingya camps. If we have the proper information regarding the variants, it will help us in our preparation.”

Mostafa Mohammed Sazzad Hossain, a UN Refugee Agency spokesperson in Dhaka, said the health sector is more than prepared to handle the outbreak, as nearly 80 percent of the patients are considered to be mild cases.

“A camp-wide contact tracing network has been embedded in the rapid investigation and response teams for COVID-19 to coordinate,” he said.

“Widespread information sharing and awareness-raising campaigns are underway to ensure that the population knows how to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.”


Japan offers Libya an ‘Electoral Assistance Grant Aid Plan’

Japan offers Libya an ‘Electoral Assistance Grant Aid Plan’
Updated 26 October 2021

Japan offers Libya an ‘Electoral Assistance Grant Aid Plan’

Japan offers Libya an ‘Electoral Assistance Grant Aid Plan’

TOKYO: Japan signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to provide Libya with 198 million yen ($1.8 million) grant aid for supporting local election programs.

The agreement was reached on Oct. 24 at the Japanese embassy in Tripoli and signed by Yuki Tenji, the Japanese temporary deputy ambassador, the special coordinator of Libya Mark Andre Franche, and the UNDP Libya Office.

According to the foreign ministry in Tokyo, this aid will help conduct smooth, free, and fair national elections scheduled throughout Libya for December and will be the first step in establishing a legitimate unified government representing the Libyan people.   

The aid will provide the National Electoral Commission with ballot boxes and other election-related equipment, thus contributing to the realization of a peaceful and safe society.

Libya covers an area of ​​1.76 million square kilometers, has a population of about 6.78 million and has a per capita gross national income of US $7,640, the ministry said.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


China locks down city of four million over COVID-19 cases

China locks down city of four million over COVID-19 cases
Updated 26 October 2021

China locks down city of four million over COVID-19 cases

China locks down city of four million over COVID-19 cases
  • Beijing imposed strict border controls after the coronavirus was first detected in China in late 2019
  • The latest outbreak has been linked to the highly contagious Delta variant

BEIJING: China placed a city of four million people under lockdown on Tuesday, ordering them not to leave home except in emergencies, in a bid to eradicate a COVID-19 cluster of just a few dozen confirmed cases.
Beijing imposed strict border controls after the coronavirus was first detected in China in late 2019, slowing the number of cases to a trickle and allowing the economy to bounce back.
But as the rest of the world opens up and tries to find ways to live with the virus, China has maintained a zero COVID-19 approach that has seen harsh local lockdowns imposed over handfuls of cases.
Tuesday’s fresh restrictions came as China reported 29 new domestic infections — including six in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province in the country’s northwest.
The latest outbreak has been linked to the highly contagious Delta variant, with the tally hitting 198 cases since October 17.
Thirty-nine have been in Lanzhou.
Residents of the city will now be required to stay at home, authorities said in a statement, with the “entry and exit of residents” strictly controlled and limited to essential supplies or medical treatment.
Bus and taxi services had already been stopped in the city, and state media said Tuesday that Lanzhou station had suspended more than 70 trains, including on key routes to Beijing and Xi’an.
A Southern Airlines representative said that all its flights from Beijing’s Daxing airport to Lanzhou were canceled due to public safety, with no resumption date given.
Health officials have warned that more infections may emerge as testing is ramped up in the coming days to fight the outbreak, which has been linked to a group of domestic tourists who traveled from Shanghai to several other provinces.
Strict stay-at-home orders have already been imposed on tens of thousands of people in northern China.
In Beijing — which reported three new cases Tuesday — access to tourist sites has been limited and the prominent Lama Temple was shuttered, while residents were advised not to leave the capital unless necessary.
About 23,000 residents in one housing compound in Changping district have been ordered to stay indoors after nine cases were found there in recent days, local outlet Beijing News reported.
Community mahjong and chess rooms have been closed, and residents have been told to reduce large gatherings.
Organizers on Sunday indefinitely postponed a marathon at which 30,000 runners were expected.
Mass testing is under way in 11 provinces and authorities have suspended many inter-provincial tour groups.
While the country’s case numbers are extremely low compared with elsewhere in the world, authorities are determined to stamp out the latest outbreak with the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing just over 100 days away.
As part of China’s strict enforcement of the zero COVID-19 policy, those deemed to have failed in controlling COVID-19 are often dismissed from their posts or punished.
On Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency reported that the party secretary of Ejin Banner in the northern Inner Mongolia region had been sacked, “due to poor performance and implementation in epidemic prevention and control.”
Hit by the latest wave, the city locked down about 35,000 residents from Monday.
Around 10,000 tourists were also placed under lockdown in Ejin, according to local media reports.
Six other officials were punished for their “slack response” to the latest flare-up, state media reported, and a local police bureau deputy director was removed from their position.
Beijing police have launched three criminal investigations into alleged COVID-19 safety breaches, deputy director of the city’s public security bureau said Sunday.


Gunmen kill 16 worshippers in Nigeria mosque attack

Gunmen kill 16 worshippers in Nigeria mosque attack
Updated 26 October 2021

Gunmen kill 16 worshippers in Nigeria mosque attack

Gunmen kill 16 worshippers in Nigeria mosque attack
  • Scores of gunmen on motorcycles stormed Maza-Kuka village in Mashegu district of Niger state on Monday and opened fire during morning prayers

KANO, Nigeria: Gunmen have killed 16 worshippers at a mosque in central Nigeria, a government official said Tuesday, in the latest violence in the restive region.
Scores of gunmen on motorcycles stormed Maza-Kuka village in Mashegu district of Niger state on Monday and opened fire during morning prayers, said Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, the secretary to the government.
“The bandits shot dead 16 people inside the mosque while they were praying,” Matane said.
Three worshippers were injured in the attack, one of them critically, he added.
Matane said one other person was killed in nearby Kaboji village as the gunmen fled the area.
“We are still investigating the motive of the attack and we have despatched military and police personnel to the area,” he said.
A police spokesman confirmed the attack but did not provide details.
Gangs of cattle thieves and kidnappers for ransom known locally as bandits have been terrorizing communities in northwest and central Nigeria where they raid villages, killing and burning homes after looting them.
Although they are driven by financial motive, the gangs have been infiltrated by jihadists waging more than a decade-old insurgency in the northeast.
Residents in several communities in Niger state have lately reported an influx of fighters from the northeast who have been taking over remote villages.
The gangs have increasingly been abducting students and schoolchildren to extort ransom from parents and authorities.
More than 1,000 students have been kidnapped since December, but most have been released after negotiations with their captors.


Women protest the world’s ‘silence’ over crisis in Afghanistan

Women protest the world’s ‘silence’ over crisis in Afghanistan
Updated 26 October 2021

Women protest the world’s ‘silence’ over crisis in Afghanistan

Women protest the world’s ‘silence’ over crisis in Afghanistan
  • Around a dozen women risked the wrath of the Taliban
  • Taliban gunmen at the entrance to the ultra-secure area initially asked the demonstrators and the press to move away

KABUL: Women activists in Kabul held up signs that read “why is the world watching us die in silence?” on Tuesday, protesting the international community’s inaction on the crisis in Afghanistan.
Around a dozen women risked the wrath of the Taliban, who have banned demonstrations and shut them down using violence since taking power in August, holding banners affirming their “right to education” and “right to work,” before the Islamists stopped the press from approaching the march.
“We are asking the UN secretary-general to support our rights, to education, to work. We are deprived of everything today,” Wahida Amiri, one of the organizers for the Spontaneous Movement of Women Activists in Afghanistan, told AFP.
Their demonstration, addressing the “political, social and economic situation” in Afghanistan was initially planned to take place near the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
But it was moved at the last minute to the entrance of the former “Green Zone,” where the buildings of several Western embassies are located, although most of their missions left the country as the Taliban took control.
Taliban gunmen at the entrance to the ultra-secure area initially asked the demonstrators and the press to move away.
An AFP reporter then saw a reinforcement of a dozen Taliban guards — most of them armed — push back journalists and confiscate the mobile phone of one local reporter who was filming the protest.
“We have nothing against the Taliban, we just want to demonstrate peacefully,” Amiri said.
Symbolic demonstrations by women have become a regular occurrence in Kabul in recent weeks as the Taliban have still not allowed them to return to work or permitted most girls to go to school.
Last Thursday about 20 women were allowed to march for more than 90 minutes, but several foreign and local journalists covering the rally were beaten by Taliban fighters.

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Pakistan, China urge world to send humanitarian aid to Kabul

Pakistan, China urge world to send humanitarian aid to Kabul
Updated 26 October 2021

Pakistan, China urge world to send humanitarian aid to Kabul

Pakistan, China urge world to send humanitarian aid to Kabul
  • A government statement said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed Afghanistan by phone
  • The latest development came a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Taliban representatives in Qatar

ISLAMABAD: In a rare joint appeal, the leaders of Pakistan and China on Tuesday urged the international community to swiftly send humanitarian and economic aid to Afghanistan, where people are facing food and medicine shortages in the shadow of winter.
A government statement said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed Afghanistan by phone, saying afterward that people there need international help “to alleviate their suffering, prevent instability” and rebuild after the United States withdrew and the Taliban seized power in August.
The latest development came a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Taliban representatives in Qatar to discuss a range of issues.
Pakistan and China are a longtime allies and along with other countries, they’ve sent humanitarian aid to Kabul over the past two months.
Pakistan wants the world community to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets to enable Kabul use its own money to avert the deepening crisis.
Currently, the Taliban government does not have access to the Afghanistan central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which is held by the New York Federal Reserve.

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