Greece locks down Muslim towns over coronavirus

Greece locks down Muslim towns over coronavirus
Greek authorities have quarantined a Muslim majority region in the country after several people tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
2 min read
26 March, 2020
Nine people in a Muslim majority region of Greece tested positive for COVID-19 [Getty]

Greek authorities have quarantined a cluster of Muslim majority towns and villages in the country's northeast after several cases and a death from the new coronavirus in the area.

The area in Xanthi prefecture was placed in lockdown as of Wednesday evening as nine people in the region overall have tested positive for the virus over the past six days, civil protection deputy minister Nikos Hardalias told reporters.

"All residents have been temporarily confined at home. No exceptions are allowed," Hardalias said.

The centre of the outbreak appears to be the small Pomak town of Ehinos, a community of about 2,500.

"Ehinos residents will be provided with food and medicine," Hardalias said.

Police were deployed Thursday on a bridge leading into town to enforce the lockdown, television footage showed.

One 72-year-old Ehinos man has died from the virus, local mayor Ridvan Deli Huseyin told Antenna television.

"It's better to take some measures now than to cry about this later," said Huseyin, the mayor of the local administrative centre of Miki.

The Pomaks are a Muslim group of Slavic origin who live mainly in neighbouring Bulgaria.

They make up part of Greece's roughly 110,000-strong Muslim minority in the country's northeast bordering Turkey.

Many of them work as migrant industrial workers in other European countries.

According to state TV ERT, several hundred Pomak workers have recently returned from shipyards and construction work in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

"I estimate that around 1,000 workers returned from central Europe, Germany, the Netherlands and France. Many were in Turkey for work or study," Xanthi mayor Manolis Tsepelis told Ethnos news portal.

"Many of them were carrying the virus without knowing," Tsepelis said.

"These are tightly-knit societies with large families," he said.

There are 22 deaths and 821 officially announced infections from the coronavirus in Greece, which has a population of 11 million. 

Two mountain villages in northern Kozani prefecture had also been placed under quarantine last week after several confirmed cases in the area.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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