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Slovakia: Five Romani-inhabited settlements are being closed for quarantine, 30+ COVID-19 infected persons found so far

9.4.2020 11:29
The Government of the Slovak Republic is testing Romani-inhabited localities for COVID-19. (April 2020) (PHOTO:  Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, Government of the Slovak Republic)
The Government of the Slovak Republic is testing Romani-inhabited localities for COVID-19. (April 2020) (PHOTO: Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic, Government of the Slovak Republic)

The Central European country of Slovakia is closing several Romani-inhabited localities after tests confirmed COVID-19 infection there, according to Slovakia's chief public hygiene official, Ján Mikas, who announced the decision last night. These cases of across-the-board quarantine for a particular location are the first to be announced in the country during the pandemic.

Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič also announced that COVID-19 had been found in five Romani-inhabited localities. He had previously expressed concerns that exactly those Romani-inhabited settlements where, for example, not all residents have access to water, and where it is therefore very complicated for people to comply with the strict rules for preventing the virus from spreading, could become focal points of infection.

"This is not an act of hostility. We want first and foremost to protect the people who will now remain in quarantine. We are arranging for grocery deliveries there," said the PM to journalists in the town of Krompachy in eastern Slovakia, where he met with his colleagues from the Government, the chief public health officer, and representatives of other institutions to discuss the situation.

The PM said COVID-19 has been discovered in five localities in the Spiš area - three are in Krompachy, others have been recorded in the nearby municipalities of Bystrany and Žehra, and as of late last night, 31 people had tested postive. The mayors of those municipalities expressed appreciation for the Government's approach to the quarantine.

Those infected apparently caught the virus abroad, for example, in Britain. According to Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Community Affairs, Andrea Bučková, the municipalities where Romani people live will be closed according to the standard approach set forth in the law on protecting, supporting and developing public health.

"It is necessary to take this step when public health is endangered, and currently there is no doubt that we are facing such a threat, irrespective of the location or the specifics of the population, everywhere in Slovakia. This is being done for the sole purpose of protecting the health of these people irrespective of their ethnicity," the Plenipotentiary said.

According to the Plenipotentiary, the Government has declared that health care will be consistently provided to those living under forced quarantine, and that access to all the necessary resources will be arranged so that those under quarantine will be impacted as little as possible by the restrictions on their freedom of movement and their liberty and will be able to live their daily lives with dignity. "I am aware of my role and responsibility, I will be keeping an eye on the Government of the Slovak Republic so that it fulfills its obligations," she said.

"I believe all the interested parties are taking into account the necessity of expanding this preventative testing to include the majority-society inhabitants of the municipalities affected, those who could have come into contact with people who tested positive and, in case of need, expanding the forced quarantine to include the entire municipality, not just the marginalized Romani communities," the Plenipotentiary said. The most important aim, according to her, is getting the spread of the pandemic under control, which can only succeed if everybody in the Slovak Republic is treated equally.

Since last week the Government has been testing in 33 Romani-inhabited localities chosen on the basis of information about some residents returning to those locations from abroad. Military medical personnel have been taking the samples.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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