The fear of coronavirus intensified in Bangladesh after the government confirmed the first cases of the Covid-19 infection in the country on March 8.
It has become a matter of greater concern because more than a million Rohingya have been crammed into 33 camps in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas under Cox's Bazar district since August 2017. Four to five of them stay in a single makeshift room made of tarpaulin sheets and bamboo sticks. So they have fewer options to think about hygiene or take measures to fight the coronavirus.
These people dump trash outside in the open spaces next to their rooms. The unhygienic conditions under which the Rohingyas are living could be a breeding ground for all sorts of viruses.
On top of that, some of these displaced people secretly travel to Myanmar, which shares a border with China. Although the global economic powerhouse is at the epicentre of the outbreak, so far no one has been officially identified with coronavirus in Myanmar.
Hnila Union Parishad Chairman Rashed Mahmood Ali said some Rohingya secretly cross the border into Myanmar across land or river points. "If they carry the virus from that country, it could be fatal for everyone ─ for them as well as for local people."
Also, people from various countries who have come here to work on the Rohingyas issue, move around freely in the Ukhia and the Teknaf camps. All in all, local residents are at risk.
Identifying Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas as risky because of the presence of a sizeable Rohingya population, Ukhia Upazila Nirbahi Officer Nikaruzzaman Chowdhury said many local and international NGOs are working here. "So the upazila administration is on the alert."
The informed Rohingyas are worried too. Salamat Ullah of Jadimura Rohingya Refugee camp and Noor Hossain of Balukhali camp said, "Many of us go outside. If these people carry the virus, its spread cannot be prevented. Even though we have been told to stay clean, no medical team has come here to sanitise us."
A three-member medical team led by Dr Shuvra Dev is working at the Teknaf border crossing point to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Kamal Hossain said, "Cox's Bazar Airport, Teknaf land port and bus terminal are being monitored with scanners. Local people have also been asked to stay on the alert so that these refugees from abroad cannot move around freely."
Teknaf upazila parishad Chairman Nurul Alam said, "We have learnt that more than 200 people have been examined so far, including sailors at the port, fishermen, and boatmen. A ten-bed corona corner has been opened at the Teknaf Upazila Health Complex."
Cox's Bazar's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md Mahbub Alam Talukder said, "All learning centres, madrasas and seminaries operating in Rohingya camps have been declared closed from March 17 to March 31, in line with the official announcement. Strict instructions have also been given to make sure that no returnee from abroad enters any camp. Any public gathering at the camps is discouraged."
Cox's Bazar Civil Surgeon Dr Mahbubur Rahman said that separate hundred-bed isolation centres have been set up in Ramu and in Chakariya. "All health workers at the camp have been given necessary training on the prevention of coronavirus. In Cox's Bazar, three people were kept under home quarantine till Monday."