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COVID-19|An Overview of the pandemic in South Sudan as Some Juba schools resume business.

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The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have reached South Sudan on 5 April 2020. As of 21 June, there are 1,916 confirmed cases and 35 deaths due to COVID-19 in South Sudan.

The new development reported on Monday by Eye Radio website that Gudele and Jadah Jedid Nursery and Primary School in Juba reopened lessons for primary eight candidates is of great concern and call for a critical overview of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Sudan

On 14 March, South Sudan suspended flights to countries affected by a coronavirus. On 20 March, classes in all schools and universities were suspended until 19 April, and Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi ordered the suspension of sporting, social, political, and religious gatherings for 6 weeks. This was followed on 25 March by a nighttime curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. On 27 March, around 500 people in quarantine from Sudan escaped in Renk, leading to northern Upper Nile State being placed under lockdown for 14 days. From 25 March, after the coronavirus reached Mali, to 5 April 2020, South Sudan was the largest country by the area without any confirmed cases of COVID-19.

On 5 April, the first case of COVID-19 in the country was confirmed in a 29-year-old patient, a United Nations worker who arrived on 28 February from the Netherlands via Ethiopia. South Sudan thus became the 51st African country (out of 54) to confirm a case. The patient was quarantined at a UN facility and contact tracing efforts were undertaken.

The second case of COVID-19 was confirmed on 7 April; the patient was another female United Nations worker, aged 53, who arrived from Nairobi on 23 March and self-quarantined. The third case on 9 April was also a female United Nations worker who had been in contact with the first patient.

On 9 April, the Ministry of General Education announced it was preparing a distance learning program for primary and secondary school students via radio and television. On 13 April, South Sudan suspended flights and public transportation between the states and between Juba and the states.

Unlike the first cases, the fifth and sixth cases on 23 and 25 April were confirmed to be South Sudanese nationals.

After 28 people tested positive on 28 April, the curfew was extended to be from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., all restaurants were only allowed to be takeout, and all passenger boda bodas were banned.

Although cases were still increasing, South Sudan began the process of reopening on 7 May. The curfew was decreased to 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., boda bodas were allowed to have one passenger and rickshaws two passengers, if both the driver and the passengers wore face masks, and shops were allowed to reopen with a maximum of five occupants at a time. On 12 May, airports were reopened for local, regional, and international flights.

On 14 May, two days after, South Sudan reported its first death from COVID-19.

On 18 May, First Vice President Riek Machar announced he and his wife, Angelina Teny, had tested positive for the virus. On 19 May 2020, Information Minister Michael Makue Loweth and all members of the nation’s 15-member coronavirus task force tested positive for COVID-19. Another Vice President, Hussein Abdelbagi, the head of the COVID-19 Task Force, tested positive on May 27.  Vice President James Wani Igga announced he had tested positive on May 30.

The government’s loosening of lockdown measures last month was “perceived as an indication that the disease is not in South Sudan,” the Health Ministry said. Bars, restaurants and shops are open after people said they feared hunger more than the disease.

Some people have died waiting for rapid-response teams to arrive, the ministry said. And this month it stopped issuing “COVID-19 negativity certificates,” citing the peddling of fake ones — especially around Juba International Airport.

Meanwhile, the virus has spread into more rural areas, including one of the United Nations-run camps upcountry where more than 150,000 civilians still shelter after South Sudan’s civil war ended in 2018.

The spread of the coronavirus amongst high profile South Sudanese politicians has highlighted the risk to the country’s ageing elites, according to analysis by the European Institute of Peace, a non-profit foundation supported by several countries of the EU. 

It also worthy of note how all members of South Sudan’s Covid-19 task force, except the health minister, contracted the disease. Members of the replacement team also became infected. 

The prevalence of coronavirus circulating amongst the elite demonstrates how far the disease has spread and how ineffective measures to contain the virus have been, according to van de Vondervoort, who has worked as an expert on South Sudan for the UN. 

“Limiting the spread around the city largely had something to do with ensuring that the elite, who normally would just be able to flee the country, would be less exposed, less at risk – that strategy obviously failed,” said the EIP expert, referring to containment measures in the capital Juba. 

South Sudan has seen 1916 cases of the coronavirus, with 35 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health.  

South Sudanese government’s response has been “inconsistent and ineffective”, and Covid-19 could undermine South Sudan’s peace agreement. 

The country’s health minister has no healthcare experience, there is no meaningful healthcare system and any specialists, such as epidemiologists, were provided by the World Health Organization or other international partners, as some analyst has pointed out.

It’s not particularly surprising that the government didn’t take it very seriously in the first instance. This is not exactly a government known for its ability to respond to public health crises, or to any political crises either,”   

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