Greece extends lockdown in refugee camps again as coronavirus cases increase
Greece on Saturday announced another extension of a coronavirus lockdown in its overcrowded refugee camps as infections in the country increased and protective measures for the general public returned.
The lockdown in the camps began on March 21 and has now been extended until August 2 "for the prevention of the dispersion of coronavirus cases", the Greek Migration Ministry said.
Greece, with 194 coronavirus deaths, has so far not been as badly hit as many other European countries and there have been no deaths in the refugee camps.
But the presence of more than 32,000 asylum seekers on five islands in the Aegean sea - in camps with a capacity of 5,400 - has caused major friction with local communities, with attacks on refugees increasing.
Many of the refugees come from Arab countries hit by conflict, such as Syria and Iraq, while others come from Afghanistan, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo where under-reported conflicts are taking place.
There are also significant numbers of Bidoon – stateless people indigenous to Kuwait but denied citizenship by the Kuwaiti government.
The touristic reopening of Greece and the relaxation of some anti-virus measures have also sparked an increase in coronavirus cases.
There are now an average of 35 new cases a day, while in the week from the 8th to 15th of July the average was 25.
Greek authorities are already dealing with several confirmed virus cases in holiday areas after reopening regional airports to international flights on July 1.
It has also demanded that travellers crossing its land border with Bulgaria, the sole border crossing open to tourists, provide proof they have tested negative for coronavirus.
Late on Friday, Greek authorities announced that face masks in supermarkets will be mandatory as of Saturday while festivals have been cancelled until the end of July.