Rangamati is the only district in Bangladesh to remain free from coronavirus cases in the massive outbreak that spread to other 63 districts, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing 170 of them.
As of May 1, samples collected from 227 people in the district have been sent to Chattogram for tests and 133 of them have returned so far. All of them were negative.
The remote geographical position provides an advantage to the district but the active measures taken by the local administration have prevented the infection from spreading, according to local health officials.
The district has so far successfully prevented the local outbreak, but that does not mean preventive measures can be called off, said Rangamati Deputy Commissioner AKM Mamunur Rashid.
“If you go on the street, you’ll not find a person without wearing a mask. People in Rangamati are quite aware.”
“We all need to be aware and responsible. We should remain indoors and follow social distancing.”
The authorities have made the mobile courts more active and the law enforcement agencies became stricter as few cases of rule-breaking were reported in the past few days, he said.
At least 8,238 coronavirus cases have been reported in all districts, except Rangamati, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.
The Rangamati administration has stayed alert to the risks of contagion since Bangladesh reported its first cases on Mar 8.
Gradually, 1,798 persons were quarantined and 621 of them have completed the quarantine period.
Three persons died in Rajasthali, Baghaichhari and Sadar with virus symptoms and their last rites were done accordingly. Later, the test reports for the dead returned negative for the coronavirus.
A truck driver from Rangamati’s Langdu was infected with COVID-19 in Habiganj and has been receiving treatment there. A young health worker from the Marma community in Betbunia has been infected in Narayanganj and receiving treatment there.
Another resident of Rangamati working as assistant commissioner (land) in Bhairab is also receiving treatment there.
Rangamati, the biggest district sprawling over 6,000 square kilometres, is home to about 625,000 people.
Among them, only 227 people have been tested for the virus.
“We have collected samples from all of those with symptoms or suspected to be infected and sent them for tests. We can’t grab a healthy person and collect a sample from them,” said Dr Mostafa Kamal of Rangamati Civil Surgeon Office, when asked if a small number of test samples were enough.
“Rangamati administration was different from others since the beginning of the outbreak. They closed all entries to the district and forced everyone who travelled in to remain in isolation. They never relaxed the rules for anyone,” the official said.
“People in the districts are quite aware. The geographical position, remoteness and the lakes surrounding it gave the district some added advantage.”
Dr Kamal said the crisis is not over yet. “We should not be complacent.”