Corona is on the island. Now what?

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Text by Romy Bornscheuer, translated by Cati Ana Moragues

Aid organisations, activists and refugees have been warning about this for months. If the virus reaches the island, it will be a catastrophe. In spite of this, politicians haven’t taken action, quite the contrary, they forced Doctors Without Borders to close down the coronavirus isolation centre a month ago. The camps on the Greek islands are overcrowded making it impossible to maintain the required two metres distance, there’s about a toilet for every hundred people and no showers.

Lockdown has been imposed for six months now, but only for those living in the camp. Meanwhile, the local population could return to their normal lives.

In the refugee camp Vial, in Chios, there has been the first outbreak. In Moria, Lesbos, there are no confirmed cases so far, but then again no one is being tested in the camp. There’s only one hospital in the island, which was already close to reaching its full capacity before 2015. Taking this into account, it’s not surprising that the local population is worried. There are 20,000 inhabitants in the capital, Mytilene, almost as many as refugees in the whole island. The intensive care unit has only six beds, which was barely enough even before the pandemic.

And what have politicians done to protect the local population and the refugees? They have imposed a lockdown for almost six months now. However, only for those living in the camp. The local population could return to their normal lives in the past months. Tourists are drinking cocktails at the beach, the streets are full of people, and clubs and bars are welcoming guests again. At the same time, the refugees have to endure terrible conditions at 37 °C locked up behind fences, out of town.

In the past few days, the number of coronavirus’ cases has risen. Today (30th August), there are 101 confirmed cases, out of which 23 have been hospitalised, two patients are being ventilated and three people have died. Among the confirmed cases, there’s a surgeon, a priest and a surgical nurse. The hospital cancelled all surgeries and all departments except for the ER have been closed.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen in the next days, but what’s certain is that there’ll be more cases and that it will be too late for the politicians to act, if they decide to do so at all. Those who died in the past months, because of fires, stabbings or untreated diseases have already been ignored by Europe.

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