Words by ITV News Producer Harry Peet
At least eight asylum seekers housed in a former military barracks in Kent have reportedly tested positive for coronavirus, ITV News understands.
Concerns are now growing that these positive tests could spark a mass outbreak within the Napier barracks near Folkestone.
According to one asylum seeker, the almost 400 residents staying at the site, are still free to mix with each other and social distancing is almost “impossible”.
It comes after residents had protested against their living conditions by sleeping outside of the barracks.
One Iranian asylum seeker who did not want to be named said that “social distancing is really out of question.”
“Apart from sharing one space to sleep, we all share the dinning room together.”
“So everyone is at risk [of catching coronavirus]."
A video obtained by ITV News show a busy communal dining area within the barracks with minimal social distancing and large groups sitting together without masks.
It’s understood that the eight infected residents and those sharing the same accommodation block have been allowed to continue moving around the site despite the risk of transmission.
The government’s lockdown rules prohibit anyone who has tested positive, or has come into close contact with someone who has coronavirus, from leaving their accommodation without completing a period of self-isolation.
However, according to one resident at least three asylum seekers have left the barracks today for “shopping and exercise”.
On Thursday, Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins called for the site to be shut down.
In a letter to the Home Office Mr Collins said “the best solution would be for the asylum seekers to have their claims processed and for this facility to be closed down.”
ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers explains what's happening at the barracks
Minister for Immigration Compliance, Chris Philp said: "We are aware that a small number of individuals have tested positive for coronavirus in Napier Barracks.
"We are working closely with our providers, and with Public Health England, to ensure that all individuals who have to self-isolate can do so and are following all medical advice closely.
"We take the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and asylum seekers can contact the 24/7 helpline run by Migrant Help if they have any issues.”
Clearsprings, the company contracted to run the accommodation at Napier Barracks, declined to comment.