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COVID Emerges in Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees stretch their hands to receive aid distributed by local organisations at Balukhali makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

A Rohingya refugee in the massive Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh has tested positive for COVID-19.

A local resident has also tested positive for the virus.

World Health Organization spokesperson Catalin Bercaru told AFP, the French news agency, that rapid investigation teams have been deployed and the contacts of both men “are being traced for quarantine and testing.”

Both patients have been placed in quarantine.

“Now that the virus has entered the world’s largest refugee settlement . . . , we are looking at the very real prospect that thousands of people may die from COVID-19,” Dr. Shamim Jahan, Save the Children’s health director in Bangladesh, said in a statement. “This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades.”

Aid workers had warned that if the virus emerged in the vast camp it would spread rapidly because of the settlement’s unsanitary conditions.

The refugee camp is home to almost a million people.

The Rohingya fled to Cox’s Bazar more than two years ago, following a military offensive that targeted them in Myanmar.

Before the emergence of the virus in the refugee camp, Bangladesh was already engaged in a battle against COVID-19. The South Asian nation has nearly 18,000 confirmed cases of the virus, with almost 300 deaths.