An asylum seeker is set to take legal action against the government after contracting Covid-19 in his accommodation, it is reported.
The man, from Eritrea, raised concerns that he would be at risk from the virus due to a lack of social distancing but says he was given assurances of safety.
More than 20 people contracted the virus at Urban House in Wakefield run by Home Office contractor Mears, the Guardian reports.
The asylum seeker’s lawyers had written to the Home Office on April 15 raising concerns about room sharing and meals being eaten in a communal dining room, saying this raised the risk of the disease spreading.
The paper reported a Home Office official responded: ‘While I can understand your client may feel concerned about his health, it is not accepted that the current practices in Urban House, guided as they are by up-to-date expert medical advice, are placing him or any other resident at risk of contracting Covid.’
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He spoke to a reporter from a hotel where he had been moved to isolate after falling ill, saying: ‘I was so scared in Urban House and believed I was at risk of catching Covid-19 because of the bad and overcrowded conditions there.
‘I have been very ill with Covid but now I’m starting to feel better.’
He said he was in Urban House for around four months when people are only supposed to be there for a few weeks.
Isabella Kirwan, of Duncan Lewis solicitors, representing the asyulm seeker, said: ‘Residents of Urban House are at grave risk of contracting Covid-19. It is clear that they are unable to properly protect themselves in conditions that are manifestly unsafe. The Home Office has yet again failed an extremely vulnerable group of individuals.’
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The safety and wellbeing of asylum seekers and the local communities in which they live is of utmost importance. We have put in place a range of measures to specifically support asylum seekers affected by the pandemic.’
A Mears spokesperson said Urban House was now operating at half capacity so rooms didn’t have to be shared, and to allow social distancing.
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