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Bangladesh / Refugee Response: COVID-19 Response (1-15 May 2020)

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The first COVID-19 positive case within the Rohingya refugee community was confirmed on 14 May while 132 cases have been reported at the wider district level in Cox’s Bazar. Bangladesh has extended a general lockdown until 30 May.

Only critical services and assistance remain permitted for implementation in the refugee settlements in line with Bangladesh Government’s directives to reduce potential exposure of refugees to the virus. UNHCR has reduced the movements of its staff to the settlements, with the exception of those carrying out critical activities, which include health, food and nutrition, communicating with communities, and distributions.

UNHCR has arranged the shipment of 820,000 face masks for use by frontline health workers in Cox’s Bazar, which will make a significant contribution towards ongoing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the district and the refugee settlements.

UNHCR is continuing to maintain quarantine facilities near the main refugee settlements for any new arrivals or persons rescued at sea. The facilities have been used successfully to quarantine some 400 refugees who disembarked from boats in April, and other refugees referred by health clinics or persons identified as potential contact cases. Currently, over 70 refugees remain in UNHCR supported quarantine facilities, while additional facilities are being developed for use in case of an outbreak. On 2 May, UNHCR was informed that a group of 29 refugees who had disembarked from a boat that was stranded at sea were transferred to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal. On 7 May a second boat carrying up to 280 refugees was reported to have been rescued by Bangladesh and also transported to Bhasan Char.

In addition to focusing on the prevention of COVID-19 in the refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, UNHCR is also preparing for the monsoon and cyclone season that lies immediately ahead. UNHCR is closely tracking information emerging on potential cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and any advisories from the Bangladesh meteorological authorities.