Members of Swiss Humanitarian Aid at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) today handed over two patient transport vehicles designed specifically for COVID-19 patients and two air-conditioned ISO containers to the Greek authorities. The ISO containers are to be used as mobile examination rooms for COVID-19 cases. Both the patient transport vehicles and ISO containers will be used on the Aegean islands, where migrant reception centres are situated. A training course in contact tracing is also being delivered to the authorities.
The medical supplies were handed over in the presence of Swiss Ambassador to Greece Olaf Kjelsen, the Greek Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, and Deputy Minister for Health Vassilis Kontozamanis. The aid operation was initiated by the Medical Faculty of the University of Athens and implemented in close cooperation with the Greek Ministry of Health.
On 4 December, 800 COVID-19 test kits were handed over to the migrants' centre run by the Orthodox Church, which provides housing for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. Ambassador Olaf Kjelsen presented more than 4,000 retrovirus reagents to the National Retrovirus Reference Centre which had been facing severe shortages.
The operation is continuing this week: on 18 December, a PCR analyser for rapid COVID-19 testing and 1,400 test kits will be delivered to Mytilini General Hospital on the island of Lesbos. And at the end of January 2021, urgently needed blood transfusion supplies will be delivered to the same hospital, bringing the relief operation to a close.
Throughout 2020, the SDC has provided funding and relief supplies to help fight the global COVID-19 pandemic, including in Greece, which took in over a million refugees and migrants during the migration crisis in 2015 and 2016. Although far fewer migrants are now arriving, over 120,000 refugees and migrants are currently residing in Greece.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the national healthcare system has reached its limits, especially on the Aegean islands, which is host to more than 21,000 refugees and migrants. The regional hospitals on the islands often lack vital medical equipment, testing supplies and other products. In delivering its CHF 1.5 million support package before the end of the year, Switzerland is helping Greece tackle the pandemic more effectively in relation to migrants. This support is funding the delivery of relief supplies and contributing to the COVID-19 programmes of Médecins du Monde and the Greek Red Cross, benefiting both migrants and local communities.
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