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Workers Union Says COVID-19 Sweeping Through Greek Prisons

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Korydallos prison in Athens. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Yorgos KOntarinis)

ATHENS – The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is seeing infections spreading in Greece's prisons, the union representing workers in the facilities said, with health authorities confirming cases in 16 of 34 jails hitting inmates there too.

The Hellenic Prison Workers' Federation (OSYE) called for more measures to stop the spread of the virus during a second lockdown across the country that limits people to their homes except for work and essential missions.

“The narrative that some people have painstakingly created that 'Greece can be proud because no cases have been recorded in the penitentiaries' has now collapsed,” the union said in a press release.

OSYE said that “nobody can know” how many people are infected on a weekly basis as, despite “repeated requests” from the union and health experts, claiming there are no tests done in prisons even when cases are found.

The union also noted that the detention center of Thessaloniki, where COVID-19 prisoners from northern Greece are sent to self-isolate, lacks the necessary staff and infrastructure to fulfil its role.

"Our federation proposed from the start a package of measures to deal with the virus in prisons," including separating infected detainees from prisoners belonging to high risk groups, weekly tests, the supply of equipment and staff. "None of the above happened."

Cases have also spread in nursing homes and in refugee and migrant detention centers are had risen so rapidly across the country that Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis reluctantly imposed another shutdown despite worries about a second shock to the economy.