CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico (AP) An international disaster relief organization reported on Tuesday the first confirmed case of COVID-19 among migrants living in an asylum seekers’ tent camp on the US-Mexico border.
Global Response Management said that a person from Matamoros, Tamaulipas camp across the Rio Grande in Brownsville, Texas, had tested positive.
Aggressive isolation and tracing measures have been adopted, said the US-based rescue organization via Twitter.
Some 2,000 asylum seekers live in tents along the border. Migrants from Central America and other parts of the world have been blocked by the United States’ suspension of asylum hearings due to the pandemic until at least mid-July.
Last week, GRM spokesperson Andrea Leiner said that he had put in place measures to try to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, but conceded that it was a challenge with confirmed infections appearing among the operatives. American and Mexican immigration and among residents on both sides. from the border.
They had placed tents three feet apart, leaving them open for ventilation and making everyone sleep from head to toe to reduce the risk of transmission while people sleep.
Two immigration officials from Tamaulipas State, who requested anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss the case, said the infected person was a Mexican citizen who had been deported more early in June from the United States in Reynosa who had arrived at the camp over the weekend.
Four other people the young woman was tested with have tested negative, officials said.
Asylum seekers have started to regroup in border cities like Matamoros as part of the American policy commonly known as Stay in Mexico, in which asylum seekers can make their initial US asylum claims, but have to wait in Mexico for the long process to unfold.
More than 60,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico to await hearings in a U.S. court since January 2019, when the U.S. presented its policy on migrant protection protocols.
Since the onset of the pandemic, it has been feared that overcrowded tents and the lack of adequate sanitation could cause infections in Matamoros camp.
GRM started working in the camp last September. The organization provides medical care with a team of medical volunteers.
Dr. Michele Heisler, medical director of Physicians for Human Rights and professor of internal medicine and public health at the University of Michigan, said in a statement that the GRMs working in the camp were Herculean. She criticized the US policy for creating the situation and said that asylum seekers should be released on parole to stay with relatives in the United States while their cases are being processed.
Mexico’s local and national health authorities must act immediately to improve access to COVID-19 testing and care in Matamoros, Heisler said. Families living in the city of Matamoros are among the most vulnerable in the hemisphere to the spread of COVID-19.
The national workload of Mexicans continues to increase steadily, with 5,432 confirmed cases reported on Tuesday, bringing the national total to more than 226,000. Deaths confirmed by COVID-19 increased by 648 Tuesday to bring the total at 27,769 deaths.
AP writer Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.
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