South Sudan Records First COVID-19

The flags of South Sudan and the United Nations.

Juba — South Sudan confirmed its first COVID-19 case Sunday, a 29-year old woman who entered the country on Feb. 28 from the Netherlands via Addis Ababa.

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the individual is a U.N. staff member who has been in the country for nearly five weeks.

Government and U.N. officials told reporters on Sunday they are tracing people who came into contact with her.

"We need to check where that person has been, people she has come into contact with" said UNMISS Chief David Shearer.

Shearer says nearly two weeks ago, UNMISS quarantined 150 individuals who arrived in South Sudan with the last flights that landed in Juba before the Juba International Airport closed.

The majority of those quarantined showed no signs of the virus, but dozens are still isolated as a precaution.

Riek Machar Teny, South Sudan's First Vice President and deputy chair of the High Level Taskforce on COVID-19, said officials would monitor the situation.

Machar said Sunday that the infected individual had presented symptoms including a fever, cough, headache and shortness of breath at a U.N. Clinic on Apr. 2.

An initial test for COVID-19 came back positive as did a second test.

"The Ministry of Health is leading a full investigation with the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention including identifying and following up all the possible contacts and next steps," said Machar.

South Sudan closed its borders and Juba International Airport on March 23.

Government officials also implemented a nighttime curfew.

More preventative measures may be taken, according to Machar, should things escalate.

The government and U.N. agencies have called on the public to strictly follow preventive measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Olushayo Olu, WHO representative to South Sudan emphasized the practice of social distancing.

"There are two to three ways you can contract the disease. It has a droplet in the air so you can actually breathe it but importantly it can also rest on surfaces. So as we move forward, as we try to social distance among ourselves let us also make sure that we don't touch unnecessary surfaces. Let us also ensure that when we touch surfaces and our hands are not cleaned do not touch our face. So I think the message is hand washing," said Olu.

Shearer says unless the public cooperates in practicing the preventive measures, the situation is could get worse.

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