Authorities have reported the first coronavirus case in the crowded camps for Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh.
More than 1 million refugees from Myanmar are sheltered in the camps.
Aid workers have been warning that tackling any outbreak could be a daunting task in the crowded camps.
Bangladesh and the U.N. refugee agency said the person who was infected and a second local resident in the district have been isolated.
Investigators have been deployed to trace their contacts and quarantine and test others. About 1,900 other refugees are now being isolated for tests.
Coronavirus threat in Cox Bazar:
Aid agencies have been warning for weeks about the potential impact of the virus on the Rohingya refugees who live in cramped, congested conditions and have limited access to clean water.
“Now that the virus has entered the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar 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.”
Manish Agrawal, Bangladesh country director at the International Rescue Committee, pointed out that refugees were living 40,000 to 70,000 people per square kilometre.
“That’s at least 1.6 times the population density on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where the disease spread four times as fast than in Wuhan at the peak of the outbreak,” he told Reuters news agency, in reference to a cruise ship in Japan where Covid-19 spread rapidly.
Rohingya’s, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country and have faced persecution for generations.
The latest exodus of Rohingya escaping to Bangladesh began on in August 2017 after militants from a Rohingya insurgent group launched deadly attacks in Myanmar on more than 30 police posts.