An outbreak of coronavirus at the Moria refugee camp could have disastrous consequences | Photo: Team Humanity
An outbreak of coronavirus at the Moria refugee camp could have disastrous consequences | Photo: Team Humanity

Since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the overcrowded Moria migrant camp on Lesbos last Wednesday, the number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus has risen to 17. The camp is under quarantine through September 15.

The number of coronavirus cases in the overcrowded Moria migrant camp on the Greek Aegean island of Lesbos has risen to at least 17, a migration ministry official said Monday.

The outbreak allegedly started with a 40-year-old man from Somalia, who holds refugee status in Greece and recently returned to Moria after failing to settle in Athens, according to the Greek migration ministry. The man tested positive on September 2.

On the same day, the ministries for asylum, health and civil protection in a joint statement said Moria is to be quarantined for 14 days until at least September 15 and that security staff will be increased to control entry points to the facility.

So far, 1,600 tests have been conducted in Moria, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told Alpha TV on Monday.

According to Reuters, Greek authorities late on Monday said three more migrant facilities had been quarantined: the Eleonas camp in Athens, the Malakasa camp just north of Athens and the facility in Schisto, near the port of Piraeus.

In late July, medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had said Greek authorities forced it to shut down a coronavirus isolation center for migrants near Moria, which has long been criticized for its overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous living conditions.

At the peak in December 2019, the sprawling camp housed more than 18,000 migrants and refugees. As of August 31, the site was still home to 12,714 people -- close to five times its capacity. They demand to evacuate the camp and be taken to the Greek mainland or to other EU countries.

In mid-August, a 35-year-old man from Yemen living in the Vial camp on Chios became the very first person to have contracted the virus at one of Greece's several overcrowded island migrant camps.

Outbreak warning

Residents of the notorious Moria migrant camp live in makeshift tents and containers in extremely cramped conditions, often without access to sanitary facilities. NGOs recently warned that an outbreak there was merely a matter of time.

Since the beginning of March, all migrants who reach the island have been placed in quarantine away from residents at Moria.

Authorities have called Moria residents to wear masks, physically distance, wash their hands, disinfect, and self-isolate if they feel unwell. However, MSF member Caroline Willemen said this "is totally unrealistic in Moria."

In an interview with DW, Willemen said "Even if people spend as much time as possible in their tents, they still eat three times a day with thousands of other people. The same goes for the restrooms and showers. It is impossible to avoid the masses."

Overall, Greece has recorded 11,663 COVID-19 cases since the first infection in February, and 289 COVID-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. In recent weeks, cases have surged, and authorities have put in force additional restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

With dpa, Reuters


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