‘Urgent’ EU help needed in virus fight in camps: Greece
>>ATHENS: Greece has called for “urgent” EU backing to prepare for a possible coronavirus outbreak in migrant camps, a minister said on Friday.
“This sort of case could have dramatic consequences. It is extremely important to act in a timely manner to avert such a possibility,” junior migration minister Giorgos Koumoutsakos told EU internal affairs ministers in a teleconference on Friday.
“For this reason, we feel it is necessary to have urgent EU backing to address this challenge,” Mr Koumoutsakos said, according to his office.
A ministry source clarified that the assistance currently “under discussion” involves emergency funding for medical equipment and sanitation facilities at the camps.
A European Commission spokesperson this week said the bloc was “working with the Greek authorities to assist them in preparing an emergency response plan to deal with a potential outbreak of the coronavirus on the islands”.
There have been 28 recorded deaths and 966 officially announced infections from the coronavirus in Greece, which has a population of 11 million.
So far no cases have been reported in the camps, but there are over 36,000 people crammed into overstretched, unsanitary refugee centres on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos.
Mr Koumoutsakos noted that “1,000 migrants and refugees belonging to vulnerable groups” had been recently relocated from island camps to the mainland.
In the camps, regulations have been announced to keep asylum-seekers as distanced from the local population as possible.
The movement of camp residents has been drastically reduced for the next 30 days, with access to nearby communities only allowed to small groups between 7am and 7pm, and under police supervision.