A refugee woman with her child walking next to rubbish at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island, Greece, in January 2020 | Photo: EPA/Dimitris Tosidis
A refugee woman with her child walking next to rubbish at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos island, Greece, in January 2020 | Photo: EPA/Dimitris Tosidis

Migrants camps on the Greek islands have been put on lockdown for at least two weeks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. No volunteers will be allowed in the camps, and school classes for migrant children have been suspended.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Greek migration ministry said that "visits by individuals and organizations are suspended for at least 14 days." Only staff will be allowed to enter and exit the camps. All newly arrived migrants will be medically screened and all facilities will be regularly disinfected, the ministry announced. 

School classes for children at the camps have been suspended. Organized sports and indoor activities are no longer allowed. People suspected of being sick with Covid-19 will be brought to newly set up isolation wards. (Covid-19 is the illness caused by the new coronavirus.)

The ministry will post updates and instructions for to the five island camps’ residents twice a day in Arabic, Farsi, English, French and Greek, the newspaper Kathimerini reported.

According to Kathimerini, camp residents will be discouraged not only from venturing outside the camps but also from circulating within them without good reason.

Situation critical on Aegean islands

The Greek Aegean islands are a hotspot for migrants and refugees because of their proximity to Turkey. There are over 42,000 migrants and refugees living in reception facilities on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos even though they were built to hold no more than 6,000 people.

Because of the dramatic overcrowding and lack of sanitary facilities at these camps, many worry that illnesses such as Covid-19 could spread rapidly. There is also not enough medical staff to properly treat potential patients, which could make an outbreak even more dangerous. 

Last week, Doctors Without Borders called for an evacuation of the camps, saying that "it would be impossible to contain an outbreak in such camp settings."

Covid-19 case confirmed on Lesbos

So far, there have not been any reported cases of Covid-19 in any of the Greek island camps. But Greece has hundreds of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus so far, at least four people have died. At least one Covid-19 patient has been located on the island of Lesbos, where the extremely overcrowded Moria camp is located.

Greece has introduced increasingly strict restrictions on trade and public gatherings nationwide the prevent a spread of the virus, much like many other countries across Europe and the world.

With material from dpa and AFP
 

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