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UN staffer escapes virus quarantine, flees South Sudan

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AA 19 APR 2020

A UN staffer based in South Sudan, who was in quarantine after believed to have come in contact with a COVID-19 patient, has fled the country, the government and UN mission said on Sunday.

South Sudan has confirmed four coronavirus cases so far, all from the UN, and has put several measures in place, one of which called for quarantining and testing of all contacts of those who have tested positive.

The UN traced 99 such contacts, and expected them to be quarantined and tested over the next two weeks.

But one of the staffers in isolation escaped without authorization, office of UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Juba confirmed.

“He received one test that confirmed him as negative and then left the capital Juba on a flight without the knowledge of the United Nations. The flight was commercial, not a United Nations flight,” it said.

The issue hasn’t gone down well with the government of South Sudan, which is blaming the mission for failing to adhere to directives set for responding to the pandemic.

The government’s high level task force said the staffer left South Sudan on a UN flight.

“The high level task force condemns the act in strongest terms possible, holds the UN system in South Sudan accountable for any unseemly events that may ensue, and urges the World Health Organization (WHO) South Sudan country office to provide further clarifications on the matter,” undersecretary of Health Ministry Dr. Makur Matur Koriom told Anadolu Agency.

“This is in clear contravention of the International Health Regulations (HR 2005),” Koriom said.

The S. Sudanese chapter of UN has termed the action regrettable, saying that it continues to follow the health protocols relating to COVID-19, and is working cooperatively with the country’s Ministry of Health.

“Any United Nations staff who fail to adhere to the requirements for testing and self-isolation will face disciplinary action because it is vital that all of us – whether UN or members of South Sudanese communities – work together to reduce the risk of COVID-19,” it said.

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