Alert over virus outbreak at Roma camp

Alert over virus outbreak at Roma camp

Greek authorities on Friday stressed that the continued containment of the coronavirus pandemic will be a delicate affair after quarantining a Roma settlement on the outskirts of Larissa in central Greece, following an outbreak of the virus among residents. 

The settlement, which hosts around 3,000 people, was put on lockdown late on Thursday after a 32-year-old man tested positive for Covid-19. Subsequent tests on other residents at the camp revealed that at least 20 were infected. 

Health Ministry spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras and Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias flew from Athens to Larissa on Friday to assess the situation as health workers tested hundreds of residents. There are concerns of the virus spreading beyond the camp, which is next to an area with lots of apartments and houses.

Residents of other camps in the nearby areas of Tyrnavos, Farsala and Karditsa are to undergo testing too.

Authorities also quarantined a migrant reception center in Koutsohero, near Larissa. Meanwhile all street markets in the broader region of Thessaly have been suspended after it emerged that most of the camp residents who tested positive for Covid-19 work at such markets. 

“The example of Larissa shows how fragile the situation is,” Hardalias told reporters later in the day. A similar concentration of cases in several other areas could lead to “an uncontrollable situation,” he said. 

Addressing the same briefing, Tsiodras cautioned against scapegoating the Roma during the pandemic. “Roma are not a threat; they are a vulnerable social group,” he said.

He conceded that it was more challenging to impose restrictions on what is effectively a nomadic group moving between densely populated camps. 

Authorities are particularly concerned about the potential spread of the virus in enclosed areas hosting large numbers of people, such as migrant reception centers, Roma settlements, military barracks and prisons.

The death of a 42-year-old woman at a prison in Thiva, central Greece, earlier this week was not caused by coronavirus, the Citizens’ Protection Ministry said, Friday, noting that a test on the woman’s DNA came back negative for Covid-19. 

The number of coronavirus cases in Greece has risen to 2,011, Tsiodras said on Friday, reporting 56 new cases. The death toll rose to 90, with four new deaths. 

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