Greece quarantines second camp after coronavirus case confirmed

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2020-04-05 14:38:57 BdST

A migrant wears a protective face mask at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants next to the Moria camp, during a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), on the island of Lesbos, Greece Apr 02, 2020. REUTERS

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

The Afghan man lives with his family at the Malakasa camp along with hundreds of asylum seekers. He has been transferred to a hospital in Athens.

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

On Thursday, authorities quarantined the Ritsona camp in central Greece after 20 tested positive for the coronavirus. It was the first such facility in Greece to be hit since the outbreak of the disease.

Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16. More than 110,000 people currently live in migrant facilities across the country - 40,000 of them in overcrowded camps on five islands.

No cases have been recorded in the camps on the islands so far. Aid groups have urged the government to evacuate them, warning the risk of the fast-moving virus spreading among people living in squalid conditions is high and containing an outbreak in such settings would be "impossible".

The camp in Malakasa, 40km northeast of Athens, will be put into quarantine for two weeks, the ministry said on Sunday, adding police guarding the site would be reinforced to ensure the restrictions are implemented.

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

Greece recorded its first case of the new coronavirus at the end of February. Since then, it has confirmed 1,673 cases of COVID-19 and 68 deaths.

It has imposed a nationwide lockdown and banned arrivals from non-EU countries as well as Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain. The measures will have an impact on its economy which is relying on tourism for a recovery after a decade-long debt crisis.

Finance Minister Christos Staikouras reiterated on Sunday the economy was expected to shrink by about 3-4% this year, but added Greece had a 37-billion euro ($40 billion) cash buffer that it could tap into to support it.