Greece quarantines second migrant camp after confirmation of COVID-19 case

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ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece has quarantined a second settlement for migrants on its continent after a 53-year-old man tested positive for the new coronavirus, the migration ministry said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: A migrant wears a protective mask in a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants next to Moria camp, during a national lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the island of Lesbos, Greece April 02, 2020. REUTERS / Elias Marcou / File Photo

The Afghan man lives with his family in Malakasa camp with hundreds of asylum seekers. He was transferred to a hospital in Athens.

Tests on his contacts will continue as the public health agency tries to trace the path of the virus.

Authorities quarantined the Ritsona camp in central Greece on Thursday after 20 positive tests for the coronavirus. It is the first such facility in Greece to be affected since the onset of the disease.

Greece was the main gateway to the European Union for more than a million people fleeing the conflict in 2015-2016. More than 110,000 people are currently living in migrant facilities across the country, including 40,000 in overcrowded camps on five islands.

“The number (of migrants and refugees) is very large, so it is certain, mathematically, that there will be confirmed cases,” Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi told Skai TV. “We have an emergency plan in place … but it is more difficult to implement it on the islands.”

No cases have been recorded so far in camps on the Greek islands.

The Conservative government wants to replace all existing camps on the islands with closed detention centers, but its plans have met with resistance from local authorities and residents who want all facilities to be closed.

Humanitarian groups have urged Greece to evacuate the camps, warning that the risk of rapid spread of the virus among people living in squalid conditions is high and that it would be “impossible” to contain an epidemic in such contexts.

Malakasa camp, 40 km northeast of Athens, will be quarantined for two weeks, the ministry said on Sunday, adding that the police guarding the site will be reinforced to ensure the restrictions are enforced.

A separate, closed facility started operating last month for migrants arriving after March 1, the ministry said.

Greece registered its first case of new coronavirus in late February. Since then, he has confirmed 1,673 cases of COVID-19 and 68 deaths.

It imposed a nationwide lockdown and banned arrivals from non-EU countries as well as from Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain. The measures hit its economy, which is counting on tourism for recovery after a decade of debt crisis.

Finance Minister Christos Staikouras reiterated on Sunday that the economy is expected to shrink by around 3-4% this year, but added that Greece has a cash cushion of 37 billion euros (40 billion euros). dollars) from which she could draw to support her.

Report by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Mark Potter

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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