Greece has quarantined a migrant installation about 40 km northeast the capital Athens after a 53-year-old Afghan asylum seeker tested positive for COVID-19, the ministry of migration announced Sunday.
First Case of COVID-19 in a Refugee Camp in Greece
The man lives with his family in the Malakasa camp where hundreds of asylum seekers are housed. He was transported to a hospital in Athens and tests on people who were in contact with him are being held as the authorities are trying to trace the route of the virus.
The camp in Malakasa will be sealed off for 15 days and the police guarding the site will be reinforced to ensure the restrictions are implemented, the ministry said.
It added that a separate facility started operating last month for migrants who arrived after March 1.
More than 110,000 people live in migrant facilities in Greece, including in cramped camps on five islands.
“The number (of migrants and refugees) is very large, therefore it is a given, mathematically, that there will be confirmed cases,” Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said. “We have an emergency plan in place ... But it is more difficult to implement it on the islands.”
Last week, the Ritsona camp in the center of the country was quarantined after 20 people tested positive for the new coronavirus.
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For years now, Greece has been the main crossing point to the European Union (EU) for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and beyond.
Aid groups have urged the country to evacuate the camps, warning that containing the spread of the virus with the squalid conditions in which people live in these camps is “impossible.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative government wants to replace all the camps on the islands in detention centers, but the plan was met with resistance from local authorities and residents who want all facilities shut.
To control the rapid spread of the virus the government also wants new arrivals isolated but most islands have not designated areas of accommodation, ministry officials said. About 120 people who recently arrived on Lesbos have not yet found a shelter, according to sources.
Since the outbreak, Greece has imposed a nationwide lockdown and banned arrivals from non-EU countries as well as Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain.
The country has reported Sunday 62 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the country to 1,735. Seventy-three people have died.