Greece: 150 have virus at quarantined hotel housing migrants

International

Migrants wave from the their balconies at a hotel in Kranidi town about 170 kilometers (106 miles) southwest of Athens, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The heads of Greece’s pandemic response effort are visiting a refugee shelter in the south of the country after authorities confirmed a high number of COVID-19 infections at the site. The shelter at Kranidi hosts 470 asylum seekers and was placed in isolation Monday after a pregnant resident tested positive for the new coronavirus during a hospital visit. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

KRANIDI, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities said Tuesday that 150 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus at a quarantined seaside hotel housing 470 asylum-seekers from Africa, including many children, but none of those infected displayed symptoms of COVID-19.

The rented hotel just outside Kranidi, some 170 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Athens, has been quarantined since April 16 after an employee tested positive. A asylum-seeker also tested positive during a hospital visit for pregnancy complications on Sunday.

Authorities imposed a night-time curfew starting Tuesday for the entire Kranidi area of some 4,000 residents and also tightened movement restrictions to only allow essential shopping and visits to doctors or pharmacies.

The chief of Greece’s coronavirus task force, Sotiris Tsiodras, said all 497 asylum-seekers and staff members at the hotel were tested for the virus and the results were positive for 148 residents and two workers.

“No patients with symptoms of the disease have been found,” Tsiodras said. “Residents in such closed centers are among the most vulnerable people for the spread of the disease. The sooner these cases can be registered and handled, the better.”

Greek Civil Protection Agency chief Nikos Hardalias said during a visit to Kranidi there was no cause for panic.

“Everything is under control right now, but we have to take some preventive measures,” he said while announcing the 8 p.m.-8 a.m. curfew and movement restrictions that will apply for two weeks.

The International Organization for Migration said that since October 2019 the hotel has housed mostly families from Congo and Cameroon who were transferred to mainland Greece from congested refugee camps on the eastern Aegean Sea islands, where they first arrived on smuggling boats from nearby Turkey.

The United Nations agency runs the facility. An IOM spokeswoman said the hotel is fully equipped with protective clothing, masks and gloves, and has been disinfected. She said IOM staff there include psychologists, interpreters, a legal adviser and a social worker.

No cases of COVID-19 have so far been confirmed at the island camps holding some 40,000 people. Two asylum-seeker facilities north of Athens were quarantined after minor outbreaks..

Greece imposed an early lockdown to combat the pandemic, and by Tuesday evening had registered a total of 2,401 virus cases and 121 deaths.

In Bosnia, police on Tuesday began moving hundreds of migrants and refugees off the streets in the northwestern city of Bihac to a nearby emergency tent camp that can accommodate up to 1,000 people amid the pandemic.

Despite strict social distancing measures, some 1,500 migrants and refugees were estimated last week to be sleeping rough in squalid and insanitary conditions in Bihac and several other cities in the region bordering the European Union member Croatia.

The camp was “equipped with all necessary infrastructure to provide the beneficiaries with … accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care,” the International Organization for Migration, which manages all such facilities in Bosnia, said in a statement.

The organization previously reported serious overcrowding in six migrant centers, which house 6,200 people, or nearly 20 percent more than before the advent of the pandemic in Bosnia in mid-March.

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Paphitis reported from Athens, Greece. Sabina Niksic in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, also contributed.

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