Extract of article originally published on Romea.cz, 1 April 2020 – accessible here

Starting this Friday around Slovakia, testing for COVID-19 will begin in 33 Romani settlements. Slovak PM Matovič announced the move at a press conference together with MEP Peter Pollák and the new Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Romani Communities, Andrea Bučková, presenting his plan for combating the virus in excluded localities inhabited by Roma.

The sample testing, which will be supervised by soldiers, will happen from 3-9 April. On 10 April the results should be known.

“The fact that the Army will be going to the settlements is not a demonstration of force,” the PM said. Military doctors, according to him, will be aiding with the tests so as not to further burden civilian health care workers.

The PM said he wants to relocate any infected Romani residents of the settlements into state-run facilities. According to him, because of the low standards of hygiene in the Romani settlements, it is theoretically possible that one infected person could infect as many as 20 other people.

According to the PM, people whose homes are basically small huts, as they are in the settlements, will not do well remaining in such conditions as they attempt to self-isolate at home. “That’s not quarantine, but a threat to others,” he said.

For that reason, in his view, infected people from socially disadvantaging environments should be relocated into state-run facilities. There are about 1 000 excluded localities in Slovakia, and the Crisis Team is still finding out which have the biggest numbers of residents who may have recently returned from abroad.