DAKAR: 3,000 people displaced

MSF: we fear for people's lives

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been forced to close a COVID-19 isolation centre that was set up on the Greek island of Lesbos in May after local authorities imposed fines with potential criminal charges related to urban planning regulations.    

This comes despite it being part of the emergency preparedness plan set out by the Minister of Migration and aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 among the men, women and children contained in Moria reception centre.

We are deeply disappointed that local authorities could not quash these fines and potential charges in the light of the global pandemic, despite some efforts from relevant stakeholders,” says Stephan Oberreit, MSF’s Head of Mission in Greece. “The public health system on Lesbos would simply be unable to handle the devastation caused by an outbreak in Moria – which is why we stepped in. Today, we had to unwillingly close a crucial component of the COVID-19 response for Moria.”

We strongly condemn the authorities’ failure to identify a solution to keep the isolation centre open when there is still a risk of COVID-19 spreading through nearby Moria reception centre, where more than 15,000 refugees are living in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions. They have little space and limited access to soap and water, making it impossible to carry out preventive measures such as physical distancing and regular handwashing. More than 300 people who are at high-risk due to their age or chronic medical condition, as well as their families, remain trapped in these dangerous conditions.

Our teams warn that the closure of the isolation centre - which will significantly reduce the COVID-19 response capacity on the island - could have terrible implications should an outbreak occur in Moria. 

MSF’s COVID-19 isolation centre on Lesbos opened on 6 May, the result of efforts by medical organisations across the island and supported by public officials and the local hospital. The isolation centre was the only place on Lesbos providing a safe space in which people from Moria displaying COVID-19 symptoms could be isolated and provided with medical care. 

It’s astonishing that we are being hampered by local authorities while trying to protect vulnerable people, when, just next to us in Moria, we see an enormous violation of human dignity, with thousands of people trapped in inhumane conditions,” says Oberreit.

MSF continues to call for the immediate and urgent evacuation of all vulnerable people, including those at high risk to COVID-19, from Moria to safe accommodation elsewhere.

More than 17,500 people still live in overcrowded tents or containers on the Greek islands with limited access to running water and sanitation services. Medical actors, including MSF have been co-ordinating with national authorities to respond to potential cases of COVID-19.  In Lesbos, MSF teams have been operating an in-patient medical unit near Moria RICs for patients who present symptoms similar to COVID-19 and potential positive cases that might be detected. The centre was put in place to ensure the early detection of suspected or positive COVID-19 cases, their isolation in a safe space, their medical monitoring and the treatment of those with mild symptoms. MSF teams have also been providing support and training on the triage system of the National Public Health Organisation (NPHO), which is responsible for the COVID-19 triage and case management. In Samos and Lesbos, we have adapted our facilities and procedures in order to ensure the safety of our patients and our staff. MSF is doing health promotion with the camp residents and we are increasing the provision of water and sanitation services in the camp and scaling up our operations with the recruitment of extra medical, paramedical, support staff and the acquisition of the necessary equipment.[SM1] 

 [SM1]I think we can do away with this. There is sufficient context in the paragraphs before.

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Angela Makamure Press Officer, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa
Angela Makamure Press Officer, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Southern Africa
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