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Myanmar confirms first Rohingya Covid-19 case

Infected Muslim man had illegally returned from Bangladesh with his family

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Myanmar confirms first Rohingya Covid-19 case

The infected Rohingya man had been staying at Thankhali refugee camp in Bangladesh's Ukhia district. (Photo: AFP)

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Myanmar has confirmed the first case of coronavirus infection in the Rohingya Muslim community.

The 31-year-old Rohingya man illegally re-entered Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine state from Thankhali refugee camp across the border in Bangladesh on May 30 with four family members.

The infected man has been sent to a hospital in Maungdaw for treatment while the man’s wife and three children are in quarantine in Hla Phoe Kaung transit camp.

The transit camp is designated by Myanmar’s government for temporary stays for returning Rohingya before they are sent back to their homes or a new resettlement area.

The family of five were among the more than 1.1 million Rohingya who settled in squalid camps in Bangladesh, mostly after fleeing Rakhine following the military’s bloody crackdown in August 2017.

Not a single Rohingya has returned to Rakhine from Bangladeshi camps under the official repatriation program between the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments.

Myanmar authorities, however, said that around 700 Rohingya have returned to Rakhine voluntarily.

Repatriation of Rohingya is likely to be delayed after Bangladesh confirmed its first death of a Rohingya refugee from the coronavirus on June 2, less than three weeks after the first Rohingya refugee tested positive for the virus.

The number of Rohingya infected in the camps had increased to 29 as of June 2.

Infected Rohingya refugees are fleeing quarantine in their Bangladesh camps because they fear being transferred to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal, according to community leaders cited by AFP.

Myanmar has reported 236 Covid-19 cases with six deaths and 148 recoveries.

Vulnerability of displaced in camps

The first case among the Rohingya community in Rakhine raised concerns over the vulnerability of thousands of people who remain in camps in the state.

More than 120,000 Rohingya are housed in internal camps in central Rakhine in what critics have compared to the apartheid in South Africa that ended in the early 1990s.

People displaced since 2012 cannot move freely and have no access to health care, education or employment. Camp inmates mainly rely on aid from the United Nations and non-government groups for daily survival.

Conflict-torn Rakhine has been locked in an intensifying fight between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army since December 2018 that has led to scores of civilian fatalities and more than 157,000 people being displaced.

“Humanitarian needs across the camps and displacement sites remain severe,” the UN said in a June 2 report.

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