As cases of Covid-19 escalate in South Asia, Amnesty International has called on the authorities there to intensify efforts to protect vulnerable groups at higher risk, including daily wage earners, people displaced by conflict, health workers and prisoners.
In a press on Wednesday Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director at Amnesty International said, "As the number of Covid-19 cases in South Asia soars, the region's leaders must pay special attention to the most vulnerable and marginalised in this crisis."
"They need to protect the workers for whom staying at home means losing their livelihoods, people who lost their homes in conflicts and now languish in overcrowded camps, prisoners squeezed into cells with several others, and, not least, the valiant doctors and nurses who have never had the resources they need and are now putting their own health at risk to save others," he added.
The human rights organisation said the Covid-19 pandemic is poised to break into thousands of cases in South Asia, as more governments across the region this week imposed strict lockdowns and curfews amid fears that the virus will strike densely populated areas, overwhelming woefully inadequate healthcare facilities and devastating livelihoods across a region where more than 600 million people already live in poverty.
The Amnesty International alleged that the Covid-19 crisis in South Asia has been exacerbated by a failure of the authorities there to provide accessible, accurate and evidence-based information about the virus, how people can protect themselves, and what the government is doing to help them.
Some senior government officials in different countries in the region have, in recent weeks, either played down the crisis, suppressed information about its true scale, or, in the most damaging cases, provided false information about the effect it has – undermining the effectiveness of any public health response and potentially their right to health, said the human rights body.
In Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district the failure to provide Rohingya refugees with accurate information about the virus has stirred alarming rumours in the camps that anyone who contracts it will be put to death by the authorities. The camps have been subject to an ongoing telecommunications blackout, said Amnesty.