‘It will spread like wildfire’: Fears of coronavirus outbreak after asylum seeker catches Covid at ‘unsanitary’ barracks

Colin Drury
·2-min read
Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent (PA)
Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent (PA)

An asylum seeker who is one of 400 currently being housed at a former army barracks is reported to have contracted coronavirus after repeated complaints about unsanitary conditions.

Charity workers helping out at Napier Barracks near Folkestone, in Kent, now fear a mass outbreak amid the crowded conditions there.

They say poor sanitary, unhealthy food and limited access to medical care, as well as the impossibility of social distancing, makes residents especially vulnerable to Covid-19 if it takes hold at the site.

One volunteer told The Guardian: “This is going to spread like wildfire … Every single person we speak to and deal with has said the barracks are not Covid-safe.”

They added: “There’s a constant complaint about water being all over the floor, toilets leaking, taps not being turned off.

The facility – which is run by private firm Clearsprings Ready Homes on behalf of the Home Office – is said to have been upgraded over the summer to included screens between dormitory beds and signs in communal areas reminding people to social distance.

But the volunteer added: “That’s just not possible.”

Clearsprings did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment but is is understood the man who contracted coronavirus, an Iranian, has been moved from the site and taken to hospital.

The company, which manages several such centres, is said to have an outbreak management plan in place.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our asylum system is broken and we are determined to introduce a new system that is firm and fair. It will be compassionate towards those who need our help, welcoming people through safe and legal routes.”

The site itself is used for what is called “initial accommodation” with men housed there for up to four weeks before being moved to more permanent centres.

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