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Coronavirus outbreak hits refugee home in Germany

May 18, 2020

At least 70 people at a refugee home near Bonn have tested positive for COVID-19. News of the outbreak prompted calls for better protection for asylum-seekers and more testing at the often crowded facilities.

Officials at the St. Augustin refugee home
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kusch

Scores of people have tested positive for COVID-19 at a refugee home in western Germany, local authorities say.

Some 70 people have tested positive and authorities have tested around 300 other residents at the compound, which is located in the town of Sankt Augustin outside the city of Bonn.

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic poses threat to undocumented migrants

The local Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper on Sunday reported that the number of positive cases at the facility was over 100.

The rest of the nearly 500 asylum-seekers living at the facility are also due to be tested.

Most of the people who have tested positive for the virus either had mild or no symptoms, the district government said. 

The residents who tested positive have been isolated, authorities said, adding that 60 people whose tests came back negative have been transferred to another home.

Testing 'happening far too late'

News of the outbreak prompted swift criticism, with politicians urging for better protections for asylum-seekers.

"We have repeatedly called for blanket testing in these homes," Green Party politician Horst Becker told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. "Now we can see that this is happening far too late."

Outbreaks have also been reported at other refugee homes in Bonn, Berlin and other areas of Germany. 

Last week, a court ruled protections against the coronavirus were "inadequate" at a refugee home in the same state as the Sankt Augustin outbreak. A pregnant woman and her husband had appealed to the court to be removed from the facility.

Read more: 'Modern slavery' at the heart of German slaughterhouse outbreak

Asylum-seekers in Germany are required to live in "reception centers," or shared accommodations, during their asylum applications. Many live with several hundred other inhabitants, with some sharing rooms with strangers. 

The conditions and lack of privacy in Germany's facilities for asylum-seekers have long been criticized by refugee and immigrant rights groups, with the coronavirus pandemic raising fears among asylum-seekers and activists alike.

rs/rc (dpa, AFP)

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