Fears over coronavirus grip migrant camps on US-Mexico border

Doctors working at a makeshift migrant and refugee encampment along the US-Mexico border are treating the potential arrival of the novel coronavirus, now declared a worldwide pandemic, as a certainty, not a possibility.

A doctor at the camp in Matamoros, Mexico, said when COVID-19 arrives here, it will be “catastrophic”, and people will die.

About 2,500 migrants and asylum seekers live in the encampment, which consists of thousands of tents.

Many have lived in the camp for months as they wait out their asylum cases in the US under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols programme or the “Remain in Mexico” policy as it is informally called.

Mexico and Texas, the US state bordering Matamoros, have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

US President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he was “very strongly” considering closing the southern border due to COVID-19, which would have prevented many volunteer health workers from crossing the border daily to work in the camp. But Trump later reversed course, saying the border would remain open.

“Globally, we’re reaching the point where containment is no longer a viable strategy,” said Sam Bishop, Matamoros project coordinator for Global Response Management, which runs the camp’s only clinic.

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