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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - An asylum seeker living in a migrant camp on the Greek mainland was found to have coronavirus after giving birth at a hospital in Athens, Greece’s migration ministry said on Tuesday.
The woman, from the Ritsona camp 80 kilometres north of the capital, is the first to test positive for Covid-19 among migrants living in squalid conditions in the country's overcrowded camps.
Tens of thousands of people are housed in camps on the mainland, and there are another 36,000 people crammed into the overstretched, unsanitary refugee centres on the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios, Leros and Kos.
The ministry said another person living with the new mother had tested negative for the virus.
"The public health organisation is already tracking the contacts of this case in recent days, and taking all necessary measures to protect [camp] residents and staff," the ministry said.
Ten medical staff at the hospital where the woman gave birth have been quarantined and three other people who shared the same ward are being tested, a hospital source said.
The first confirmed case within the Greek migrant camp system prompted alarm over potentially devastating outbreaks among asylum seekers, who often live in unhygienic and cramped conditions with poor access to clean water and medical care.
Nicolas Perrenoud, spokesman for the Swiss-run NGO One Happy Family which supports migrants on the island of Lesbos, told The National it was "only a matter of time" before coronavirus spread to the camp.
Medecins Sans Frontiers had earlier said that the evacuation of Greece’s overcrowded camps was “more urgent than ever”, as the first case of the virus was confirmed on Lesbos, where the sprawling Moria camp is located.
“In some parts of Moria camp, there is just one water tap for every 1,300 people and no soap available,” MSF’s Medical Coordinator in Greece, Hilde Vochten, said. “Families of five or six have to sleep in spaces of no more than three square metres,” Dr Vochten said.
“This means that recommended measures such as frequent hand washing and social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus are just impossible.”
A Greek woman in her Seventies on Monday became the first person to die of Covid-19 on the Aegean island. There have been 49 recorded deaths and 1,314 cases of coronavirus across Greece, which has a population of 11 million.
The country has called for “urgent” EU backing to prepare for possible outbreaks within its camps. “It is extremely important to act in a timely manner to avert such a possibility," Giorgos Koumoutsakos, a junior migration minister, told EU internal affairs ministers in a teleconference on Friday.
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".
In the camps, regulations have been announced to keep residents as far from the local populations as possible. The movement of camp residents will be drastically curtailed for the next several weeks, with access to nearby communities only allowed to small groups under police supervision between 7am and 7pm.
Specialised medical teams have been deployed to the camps and virus isolation areas, and inspection points are being set up. Camp access to outside visitors is also barred, though aid and rights group representatives may still enter.
Updated: April 1, 2020 01:45 PM
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