Hundreds of Bangladeshis Have Died from Coronavirus Overseas

Jesmin Papri
200423-BD-covid-overseas-620.jpg Friends and relatives of Bangladeshi photojournalist A. Hye Shapan, who died from COVID-19 in New York, participate at his burial at a Muslim cemetery in Marlboro Township, N.J., March 30, 2020.

At least 370 Bangladeshis in more than a dozen countries have died of COVID-19 – a number nearly three times greater than the current death toll in their home country from the highly contagious virus, according to estimates compiled by BenarNews.

Bangladesh on Thursday recorded seven deaths linked to the coronavirus, taking the death toll in the South Asian country to 127. By comparison, more Bangladesh citizens have died in the United States to date from the virus, according to Dhaka’s embassy in the U.S.

“About 180 Bangladesh nationals died so far, as per the information we received from the Bangladesh community here,” Shamim Ahmad, the spokesman at the embassy in Washington, told BenarNews.

Elsewhere, 140 Bangladeshis have died in the United Kingdom, 31 in Saudi Arabia, seven in Italy, six in Canada, five in Spain, four in Qatar and two in Sweden because of coronavirus complications, according to Bangladesh diplomats and expatriate communities in those countries.

In addition, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Kenya, Libya and Gambia each reported one death, according to a tally of numbers gathered from those sources through Wednesday.

Officials could not clearly establish if those who died were citizens of these countries or Bangladesh.

An estimated 10 million Bangladeshis, many of them migrant workers, are scattered across the globe, with their mobility exposing them to the threat of catching the virus, experts said.

In the U.S., Bangladeshis who died were buried there according to coronavirus-related guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), officials said.

Talisma Islam, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin who was visiting Dhaka, told of how COVID-19 had devastated her family.

“We are one of the millions of victims of COVID-19,” she told BenarNews, referring to the number of people who had fallen ill from the virus worldwide.

“My sister, my brother-in-law and my nephew in New York were badly affected by COVID-19 three weeks ago,” she said, adding her brother-in-law had lost his three-week battle against the coronavirus.


Singapore hotspot

While the exact number of Bangladesh nationals infected with COVID-19 across the globe is not known, authorities estimate there are 4,000 in Singapore, 1,000 in the U.S. and 500 in Qatar.

Most of those infected in Singapore, where there have been no reported Bangladeshi deaths, are foreign workers who live in dormitories that have become hotspots for the coronavirus, according to local authorities.

On Thursday, Singaporean health officials announced that the number of infections in the city-state had surpassed the 11,000 mark with 1,037 new cases confirmed.

An official with Bangladesh’s largest NGO warned that Bangladeshis who travel abroad to work are at high risk of being infected with the coronavirus.

“One of the key reasons is that the Bangladesh nationals live in crowded rooms and dirty environments where they together use a single toilet. They have long been living in a condition that puts their health at risk,” Shariful Hasan, the migration program chief at the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), told BenarNews.

“The current situation is the outcome of that poor living condition,” he added.

The Bangladesh health minister, meanwhile, had a message for those Bangladeshis seeking to return from Singapore.

“I want to clearly say that Bangladeshi returnees from Singapore must undergo quarantines,” Minister Zahid Maleque told BenarNews on Thursday.

Aid for Bangladeshis overseas

According to Ahmed Munirus Salehin, an additional secretary at the Bangladesh Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, the agency has distributed funds to support those migrants abroad who have lost their jobs.

“We have sent about [U.S.] $600,000 (50 million taka) with other support to 22 countries,” he told BenarNews.

He also said Bangladeshis in other countries who had contracted the coronavirus were receiving the necessary treatment.

“As of now, we don’t see any discrimination,” he told BenarNews.

On Thursday, the Bangladesh health directorate announced seven COVID-19 deaths and 414 infections since Wednesday, bringing the national number of fatalities from the disease to 127 and the total number of cases to 4,186.

Also on Thursday, the government issued an order announcing that a nationwide COVID-19 shutdown, referred to by officials as a public holiday, was being extended from April 25 to May 5.

The government also allowed export-oriented factories, including those in the garment industry, to reopen slowly but they must ensure worker safety, according to the Associated Press. Garment manufacturers have said customers canceled or suspended orders valued at $3.17 billion, affecting 2.3 million workers.

Globally, more than 2.6 million infections have been recorded while the death toll stood at more than 185,000 as of Thursday, according to data compiled by disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.


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