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South Sudan's Senior Officials Test Positive for Coronavirus


FILE - South Sudan's opposition leader Riek Machar, center, returns to the country, in Juba, South Sudan, Oct. 19, 2019.

South Sudan's First Vice President Riek Machar Teny and his wife, Minister of Defense Angelina Teny, have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"I want to declare that, I, the deputy chair of the high-level task force has been tested [For COVID-19] and found positive. There are other members who are also tested and found positive. I can only say at this stage that Madam Angelina Teny, the minister of defense and veteran affairs is also found positive," Machar announced in a televised address to the nation.

Machar's Press Secretary James Gadet posted a message on his Facebook page confirming that his boss tested positive. "The First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, H.E Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon and Madam Angelina, plus a number of his staff and bodyguard, have tested positive with COVID-19 diseases.''

Angelina Teny, wife of South Sudan's first vice president Riek Machar, addresses a news conference in Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa, Feb. 26, 2014.
Angelina Teny, wife of South Sudan's first vice president Riek Machar, addresses a news conference in Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa, Feb. 26, 2014.

Teny, until last week, was the deputy chairman of the country's high-level task force for COVID-19.

Elizabeth Acuai Yor, South Sudan's Minister of Health and chairperson for the task force, took a test for the disease last week. Machar said she tested negative.

"Fortunately, the minister of health is not among us who have been found positive. She tested the day before we took the test and she was found negative," Machar said.

Machar and his wife are the first senior government officials in South Sudan who tested positive for COVID-19 and have come out to speak about their test results. Angelina Teny said she anticipated a positive test result after losing her sense of smell — a symptom linked to the coronavirus — about 8 days ago.

She says she will self-quarantine for 14 days and plans to execute her responsibilities as Minister of Defense from home during that time.

Teny says she was encouraged to take the test after members of South Sudan's COVID-19 task force contracted the virus. She says she met two people in the ministry who later died due to complications from COVID-19.

The coronavirus "knows no creed. It knows no gender. It knows no boundaries, rich or poor, big or small. So, we really have to take care. We really have to take care and protect ourselves and protect each other," she said.

South Sudan has 347 positive cases of COVID-19 with four recoveries and five deaths. Last week the task force reported one of the four COVID-19 victims was a "high profile person."

Ayen Bior contributed to this report.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon