A Rohingya refugee has become the first to die from coronavirus in Bangladesh, as infections rise in camps holding more than one million people who fled from Mynamar.
The 71-year-old man died while in quarantine at the main Kutupalong camp on Saturday, but samples confirmed he had COVID-19 on Monday.
Louise Donovan, spokesperson for UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the Cox’s Bazar district, told Sky News: “We are very, very worried. We knew some months ago that this was inevitable
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“The UNHCR is deeply saddened to learn of this development and sends our condolences to the family and the wider Rohingya community.
“We are focusing on increasing the testing capacity to reduce the risk of the spread.”
According to the World Health Organisation there are currently 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases among the refugee population in the camps.
In the wider Cox’s Bazar district, there are now 702 cases and 13 people have died.
With almost a million Rohingya refugees living in the 34 camps in Cox’s Bazar, as many as 60,000 to 90,000 people are squeezed into each square kilometre.
Families with up to a dozen members share tiny dwellings in what has become the world’s largest refugee camp.
Catalin Bercaru, WHO spokesperson, told Sky News: “The death is extremely sad and tragic.
“The conditions here are indeed challenging due to the density of people, we have been preparing over the months to increase capacity of tracing, testing, quarantine and isolation.”
More than 740,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in 2017 amid a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar, where more than 200,000 refugees were already due to previous suppression.
The Bangladesh government had imposed a complete lockdown in the district of Cox’s Bazar in April, when a number of infections were recorded.
The first Rohingya refugee diagnosed with the virus was on 14 May.
Since then officials have blocked roads leading to several areas of the camps, where most of the infections have been recorded.
Thousands of people have been placed in quarantine as the number of cases increased.
Ms Donavan said: “We are all working round the clock to ensure that testing is available to refugees, those who are identified as COVID-19 positive have adequate facilities in place to care for them.”
Omar, a Rohingya refugee, told Sky News: “We are very scared now.
“The news has made us really worried for our families as the condition in the camps is not good to prevent the virus from spreading.
“People are also scared and not going to health clinics if they have fever or other symptoms.”
The Bangladesh government says it has scaled down internet connectivity and network in the camps to combat criminal activity.
Omar said: “This has caused a lot of problems as we don’t get critical information and messages of awareness from humanitarian workers, which is so important now.
“This has also caused a lot of rumours.”
If not contained, it is feared the virus could ravage the camps where families with seven to 10 members live in the same room.
Maintaining social distancing, personal protection and general hygiene would all be a challenge in such densely populated areas.
Ms Donavan said: “We continue to ask the world community for its solidarity particularly to these vulnerable people who depend 100% on donations.
“With the pandemic, more is needed and [the humanitarian community] additionally need $177m (£141m) to fight COVID-19 in the camps of Cox’s Bazar.”
Bangladesh lifted its two-month lockdown on Sunday, even as the number of coronavirus cases rose. More than 60,000 cases and around 700 deaths have been reported in the country.