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South Sudan Ministers Announce Travel Ban to Stop Coronavirus Spread

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir attends a meeting on the cutting of the number of states from 32 to 10, at the State House in Juba, Feb. 15, 2020.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has issued new directives to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, including a travel ban on all newly appointed ministers. During the swearing-in Monday of his new cabinet, Kiir told the ministers they were not permitted to travel anywhere outside the country and issued a new order for diplomats returning from travel.

“I have just ordered self-quarantine of all senior government officials who have just arrived from countries with established infections and transmission of COVID-19. All planned social gatherings like sporting events, religious events, social, cultural [events] such as weddings and political events must be postponed,” Kiir told the ministers.

Newly-appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Beatrice Khamisa Wani, who recently returned from an unidentified country with confirmed cases of the virus, is in self-isolation for two weeks since returning to Juba.

Newly appointed Deputy Minister of the Interior Mabior Garang did not attend the swearing-in. His absence was not explained by officials.

President Kiir said any minister who travels to a country with known cases of coronavirus must observe the World Health Organization’s restrictions and stay in isolation for at least fourteen days.

Kiir also ordered restrictions on the issuing of new visas to South Sudanese.

“Any unessential travel to affected countries must be called off or postponed to a later date. We have ordered restrictions for the movement of people including declining to issue new visas and revoking visas and resident permits and denial of admission at the port of entry,” Kiir said.

Kiir warned against any foreign travel, even to neighboring countries like Kenya.

“This thing is not far from you my people, because my ministers have been traveling a lot. And this time, it will start with you. You stop these travels until the situation clears itself,” Kiir told his ministers.

The president called on the general public to maintain personal hygiene, to stop shaking hands and to practice social distancing at their place of work, noting confirmed cases of the virus have been identified in neighboring Kenya and Sudan.

He also directed South Sudan’s security organizations to ensure that all large public gatherings are suspended.