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Slovakia closes Romani settlement because of COVID-19, police and soldiers deployed

29.12.2020 10:51
Andrea Bučková, the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities, personally monitored the course of the testing for COVID-19 conducted in selected Romani settlements in the spring of 2020. (PHOTO:  Facebook page of Andrea Bučková - splnomocnenkyňa vlády SR pre rómske komunity)
Andrea Bučková, the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities, personally monitored the course of the testing for COVID-19 conducted in selected Romani settlements in the spring of 2020. (PHOTO: Facebook page of Andrea Bučková - splnomocnenkyňa vlády SR pre rómske komunity)

The Romani settlement of Ratnovce u Piešťan in Slovakia has been guarded by police officers and soldiers since Saturday, 19 December. The strict security measures were introduced there because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents of the settlement are in quarantine there after 28 people tested positive for the virus, including a three-year-old. The testing was ordered by the regional public health authority and a crisis staff has been set up in the settlement.   

A 25-year-old man passed away in the settlement on Friday, 18 December and an autopsy will eventually reveal whether COVID-19 was the cause of death. There are 97 people registered as permanent residents in Ratnovce, but the actual number of residents is about 200.

TVnoviny.sk has reported that despite the strict measures, some infected people are attempting to leave the settlement. Police officers and soldiers are posted on guard around the entire perimeter.

The death of the young man in the settlement has devastated local residents, and the municipal authorities contacted Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Community Affairs Andrea Bučková to facilitate psychological aid for the community. According to Mayor Daniela Sigetová, locals would then be able to better cope with the situation, as at the time the holidays were approaching and it was unclear when the deceased would be allowed to have a funeral.  

The infected people were instructed to remain in quarantine for at least 10 days. The local authority was to arrange food for them the entire time. 

Those in isolation sent their shopping lists to local officials who arranged for food delivery. The quarantinees either paid for the shopping directly upon delivery or allowed the municipality to subtract the amount due from their welfare benefits.

According to the Plenipotentiary, people from the COVID Marginalized Romani Communities National Project and the Department of Regional Coordination are working in Ratnovce to aid the local authority and other units with addressing the crisis situation. "Because food security was an acute shortcoming, our office expended maximum effort to accommodate that need. We managed to facilitate the delivery of sponsored packages of food aid and some basic groceries were also provided by Food Bank Slovakia. Representatives of the authorities participated in disbursing benefits to those in material distress and are attending crisis staff meetings," she posted to Facebook. 

Three Romani families residing in the village of Nižný Lánec are also in quarantine, according to the Plenipotentiary. "I am pleased that despite the fact that approximately 200 Romani men and women live in the local Romani community, the regional public health authority has not closed the entire community here [in Nižný Lánec]. We anticipate that the numbers of Romani communities in which residents will test positive for COVID-19 could increase. I would therefore like to reiterate my appeal to regional public health authorities, when designating the extent of quarantine, to take into account a broad range of circumstances and factors that could result in strengthening prejudices against Romani people as spreaders of this disease, and to proceed in accordance with fundamental human rights," Bučková said. 

fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Armáda, COVID-19, Police, settlement



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