Greece is on high alert following the outbreak of COVID-19 in nearby Italy where authorities are scrambling to contain the virus.

Eleven people were confirmed dead in Italy due to the coronavirus, according to reports by Italy’s ANSA news service.

There are currently two suspected cases of coronavirus in Greece with one patient hospitalised at Athens’ Aghia Sofia Children’s Hospital and another patient at Athens Attikon Hospital. Another man had been held at Sotiria Hospital on suspicion of having contracted the virus, however tests came back negative.

Greece has issued emergency measures to control the virus and is on standby for draconian steps if the virus reaches the country, including the government’s right to use medical services from the private sector as well as hotels and public buildings. Should there be an outbreak, there will be a temporary suspension of schools, churches and other public buildings.

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The government has been criticised by the main opposition SYRIZA party for attempting to link coronavirus fears with the detention of refugees and migrants. SYRIZA spokesperson Alexis Charitsis attacked the government for creating such a link following violence over new migrant facilities in Lesbos and Chios.

He said that “in the face of the chaos it has created and without any plan for an effective and humane management of the refugee crisis, (the government) is resorting to the use of harsh violence against the citizens of the islands.”

Charitsis concluded that “opposed to the violence and racist rhetoric, the government will find the islanders themselves. Those who have been at the forefront of welcoming refugees and migrants for five years and have become internationally known for their solidarity and humanity.”

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