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First coronavirus cases found in Bangladesh refugee camps

People queue to collect subsidised food in Dhaka
People queue to collect subsidised food in Dhaka MUNIR UZ ZAMAN AFP
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Cox's Bazar (Bangladesh) (AFP)

Two Rohingya have become the first to test positive for coronavirus from the vast refugee camps in Bangladesh that house almost a million people, officials said Thursday.

Health experts have been warning for some time that the virus could race through the sprawling, unsanitary camps that have been home to the refugees since they fled a military offensive in Myanmar more than two years ago.

Local health coordinator Abu Toha Bhuiyan said the two refugees had been put into isolation, and authorities stepped up prevention measures and were scaling up testing.

In early April authorities imposed a complete lockdown on the surrounding Cox's Bazar district after a number of cases, restricting all traffic in and out of the camps.

Bangladesh authorities also forced aid organisations to slash their camp presence by 80 percent.

Rights groups and activists have expressed concerns that the camps are hotspots of misinformation about the pandemic because of an internet ban imposed last September.

The first coronavirus case was confirmed in Bangladesh in early March, and the pandemic has since worsened with at least 283 people dead and nearly 19,000 infected -- figures some experts say are highly under-reported.

The government has enforced a nationwide lockdown since March 26 in an effort to check the spread of the disease.

Despite the shutdown, the number of cases has risen sharply in recent days and the daily death toll and new infections hit a record on Wednesday.

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