First ever coronavirus case reported in Moria refugee camp on Lesvos

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Greece has placed the overcrowded Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos under a two-week quarantine, after they detected the first case of coronavirus there.

A Migration Ministry official confirmed a 40-year old asylum seeker tested positive for the virus and has been placed in isolation while authorities try to trace the people he had contact with.

Authorities say the man originally left the camp on July 17. In early August, he arrived in Athens but unable to find work in the capital, he returned to Moria to use the free shelter and food there. 

A statement released by the ministries of Citizen Protection and Immigration and Asylum said: “This incident highlights the need to create ‘enclosed’ refugee and migrant camps where authorities can control the movement of inhabitants.”

People walk outside the Moria refugee camp on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Photo: AP Photo / Vangelis Papantonis.

The Moria facility, which hosts about 13,000 people (more than four times its stated capacity), has been frequently criticised by aid groups for poor living conditions.

The International Rescue Committee called for an urgent increase in healthcare and sanitation services on Lesvos, including sufficient space for isolation and quarantine.

“Social distancing and basic hygiene measures like hand washing are simply impossible to adhere to in Moria, where thousands of people live in close proximity to each other with inadequate access to running water and soap,” said Dimitra Kalogeropoulou, the IRC Greece director.

READ MORE: Greece extends coronavirus lockdown at refugee camps.

Tents are seen outside the perimeter of the Moria refugee camp on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. Photo: AP Photo / Vangelis Papantonis.

“COVID-19 could spread rapidly and those at risk, including the elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions, must be urgently evacuated to safety before it is too late.”

Greece has been seeing a spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, which authorities have attributed to people on holiday ignoring protective measures such as maintaining social distance.

The country was initially credited with tackling the pandemic’s initial outbreak well, with an early lockdown keeping the number of seriously ill people and deaths low.

Health authorities on Wednesday announced 233 new confirmed coronavirus cases and two new deaths in the previous 24 hours. Greece’s total confirmed cases stand at 10,757, with 273 deaths.

READ MORE: ‘A wake up call’: An Australian’s volunteering experience in Greece’s refugee camps.

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