Second Greek migrant camp quarantined


Greece quarantined a second migrant facility on its mainland after a 53-year-old man tested positive for the new coronavirus, the migration ministry said.

The Afghan man lives with his family at the Malakasa camp, north of Athens, along with hundreds of asylum seekers. He was transferred to a hospital in Athens and tests on his contacts will continue as authorities trace the route of the virus.

Greece confirmed 62 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the country to 1 735 since its first case was reported in February. Seventy-three people died.

Last week, the Ritsona camp in central Greece was sealed off after 20 tested positive. It was the first facility in the country hit since the outbreak of the disease.

Greece is the main gateway into the European Union for people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and beyond. More than a million people reached its shores from Turkey in 2015-16.

At least 110 000 people currently live in migrant facilities – 40 000 in crowded camps on five islands.

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

No cases have been recorded in camps on Greek islands to date.

The conservative government wants to replace existing island camps on with enclosed detention centres, but its plans have been met with resistance from local authorities and residents who want all facilities shut.

To contain the spread of the virus government wants new arrivals isolated from other migrants. Most islands do not have designated areas of accommodation, ministry officials said. About 120 people who recently arrived on Lesbos have not yet found shelter, according to sources.

Aid groups urged Greece to evacuae the camps, warning the risk of the fast-moving virus spreading among people living in squalid conditions is high and containing an outbreak would be “impossible”.

The camp in Malakasa, north-east of Athens, will be put into quarantine for two weeks, the ministry said, adding police guarding the site would be reinforced to ensure restrictions are implemented.

A separate, enclosed facility started operating last month for migrants who arrived after March 1, the ministry said.

Greece has imposed a nationwide lockdown and banned arrivals from non-EU countries as well as Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain.