Ten cases of coronavirus have been identified among refugees and asylum seekers in Germany, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said.
Andrej Mahecic told reporters a briefing on Tuesday that the cases were reported in the cities of Munich, Berlin and Heidelberg, in Germany’s southwest.
He urged all governments to treat refugees and asylum seekers who get sick with the coronavirus as no different than other nationals.
Germany has registered around 7,200 coronavirus cases and just 17 deaths as of Tuesday morning, a low death rate attributed to swift testing measures. In an attempt to halt the spread of the pandemic, the country on Monday closed its borders with France, Austria, Switzerland, and Luxembourg for everyone except commuters and commercial traffic.
Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark have already sealed their borders, meaning that Germany currently has no restrictions on land movement only with Belgium and the Netherlands.
The decision marked an about-face for Angela Merkel, who said as recently as last Wednesday that “border closures are not an appropriate response to the challenge.”
Germany was the epicentre of Europe’s 2015 refugee influx; since then, the country has taken in over 1.3 million refugees and asylum seekers. According to German law, refugees are entitled to limited acess to healthcare, which includes a set of free basic medical services.
Individuals with a pending asylum case and those who are obliged to leave Germany but cannot be deported immediately are granted a tolerated stay permit, or “Duldung” in German.
“Duldung” holders who have spent less than 15 months in Germany can only receive emergency medical services (this restriction does not apply to pregnant women). Those who have passed the threshold are entitled to full public health insurance, except long-term care.