Greece has extended a coronavirus lockdown on its migrant camps for a further two weeks. At the same time, general community restrictions have eased as the country prepares to welcome tourists for the summer.
Migrants living in island camps as well as a number of facilities on the mainland will remain locked down for another fortnight following a government announcement.
"For residents of the reception and identification centers across the country, measures against the propagation of the COVID-19 virus are extended" until June 21, the official Government Gazette said.
Strict confinement measures in migrant camps were first introduced on March 21 and a more general lockdown was imposed on March 23. They have since been extended a number of times.
More than 33,000 asylum seekers live in the five camps on the Aegean islands, initially built for a total capacity of 5,400 people. There are about 70,000 migrants in facilities on the Greek mainland.
So far there have been no known deaths from COVID-19 in the camps, and since virus screening began in early May only a few dozen infections have been recorded. Rights groups continue to warn that a virus outbreak in the camps would be impossible to contain and would put thousands of lives in danger.
Human rights advocates have also expressed concern that migrants' rights are threatened by the anti-virus restrictions. "While taking steps to contain COVID-19 infections is key, Greek leaders should treat everyone – including migrants and asylum seekers – the same, without discrimination," said Eva Cosse, from Human Rights Watch.
The rest of Greece opens up
Greece has been relatively successful in keeping infection and death rates from COVID-19 relatively low, with 180 deaths and 2,980 cases.
Since early May, the government has continued to ease lockdown measures aimed at minimizing the spread of the virus – as of Saturday, June 6, people can eat indoors at restaurants and go to open-air nightclubs, internet cafes and bars. Next week, hotels, gyms, museums and thermal springs will be back in operation.
The government has also unveiled a new campaign, "Restart Tourism." Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday: "We are opening Greece's windows and doors to the world gradually but with optimism."
From June 15, airports in Athens and Thessaloniki will start receiving regular passenger flights, with other regional and island airports to open on July 1. Travelers coming from the hardest-hit areas, as identified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, will be quarantined for between seven and 14 days.