Around 11.5 lakh Rohingya people living in overcrowded refugee camps in Cox's Bazar are at a greater risk of contracting the highly contagious novel coronavirus.
General uncleanliness and high density of population in the camps have made the Rohingyas anxious about a possible coronavirus outbreak, though the Bangladesh Army and the administration are conducting awareness campaigns and distributing foodstuffs on a regular basis to prevent the spread of the virus.
Health awareness programmes have been tightened in the camps while consumer goods have been being distributed in compliance with the hygiene norms since the first cases of the new coronavirus or Covid – 19 were confirmed in Bangladesh, said Additional Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner SM Shamsuzzoha
Salamat Khan from Modhurchhara camp said army personnel have been patrolling the area for the last three days.
"They have told us how to wash hands and asked us to avoid unnecessary gatherings. We are following their instructions. However, a small crowd is formed when we go for collecting relief materials," he mentioned.
However, staffers of various aid organisations working in the camp said Rohingya people are whimsical.
According to them, the Rohingyas listen to the instructions but they start to roam here and there at their will soon after the law enforcers leave the place. They do not follow the instructions of maintaining distance while in the queue either. They also always discard the severity of an epidemic saying it depends on the will of God.
Teknaf's Hnila Union Parishad Chairman Rashed Mohammad Ali said many of the refugees secretly move to and fro between Bangladesh and Myanmar. As Myanmar has a long border with China, he stressed strengthening monitoring to stop such risky movement.
Denying the allegation, Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights Central Secretary Mohammad Jobayer claimed none of the 11 lakh Rohingyas in the refugee camps leave their camp without permission.
He, however, said many foreigners and locals enter the camps, posing a threat of Covid-19 infection.
"We have arranged awareness programmes to prevent the spread," he added.
"New measures have been taken and foreigners have been asked not to enter any of the camps. We have collected travel history from those who have come," said SM Shamsuzzoha.
"To avoid public gatherings, all the educational institutions have been closed. Various organisations of the United Nations and local ones have informed people about the cautionary measures. We have adequate stock of relief goods for the next month," he added.
Cox's Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr MahbuburRahman said, "None in the camps have tested positive for Covid – 19 so far.
"If we find any symptom in someone we will send their blood samples to the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research and will keep him under quarantine."
Forty-seven beds in refugee camp health centres and 100 beds in Ramu and Chakoria health complexes have been prepared for that purpose, he concluded.