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South Sudan Officials, COVID Task Force Test Positive for Virus


A member of the South Sudanese Ministry of Health Rapid Response Team questions to a woman for testing at her home as she recently contacted with a confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus case in Juba, South Sudan on April 14, 2020.

South Sudan’s government spokesperson Michael Makuei said he and all members of the nation’s 15-member coronavirus task force have tested positive for the virus.

“Yes, I am positive. I am informed that all the members of the former committee are positive,” Makuei told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus on Tuesday. “We are self-quarantined. Those of the diagnosing center are supposed to come and take the samples of the contact persons, starting with my family. But up to now, they have not reported.”

South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar revealed on state television Monday that he and his wife, Angelina Teny, the minister of defense and veterans affairs, tested positive for the coronavirus after members of the former high-level task force took a mandatory test last week.

Exposed during meetings

Makuei said task force members were exposed to the virus during several meetings they held in the capital.

Dr. Anthony Garang, acting chairman of the South Sudan Doctors’ Union, said many South Sudanese, including the task force members, are contracting the virus because they refuse to follow preventative measures like wearing face masks.

“Using the masks has its own ways. It does not mean that when you are wearing a mask, that is it. You need to wear it properly. You need to put it on properly. And once you put it on, you need to make sure you don’t remove it, you don’t touch it with your hands and touch other parts of your body with it. That is one particular thing that was missed. People could wear a mask, and when they want to talk, they pull it down and they talk. Then, they put it back and they don’t immediately wash,” Garang said.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir dissolved the former High-Level Task Force for COVID-19 over the weekend and formed another one headed by Hussein Abdelbagi, vice president in charge of the government’s service cluster.

Makuei said this second team will continue the fight against the pandemic in South Sudan. As of Monday evening, South Sudan reported 347 confirmed cases, four recoveries and six deaths.

Follow preventative measures

Garang said in order to prevent further spread of the pandemic, everyone must adhere to preventative measures outlined by the World Health Organization.

He said task force members could have contracted the disease from anyone they encountered who did not observe protective measures.

“The people who are staying (with) those big people might not be observing these measures — the wearing of face masks or washing hands and even mixing with other people. People like drivers, people like guides. They can go and mix with people and get the virus, and in the process of trying to help, they can also contaminate surfaces. And the person comes and touch those surfaces, and then you can get contaminated,” he said.

Garang, a general practitioner, said the government should inform the public that wearing masks is mandatory, and ensure that people who test positive strictly observe self-quarantine guidelines.