Health experts in South Sudan are criticizing organizers of a weekend concert in Juba where tens of thousands of people gathered in clear violation of the health ministry’s COVID-19 protocols.
Tanzanian music star Diamond Platnumz attracted all kinds of fans to the outdoor event at the Doctor John Garang Mausoleum, including President Salva Kiir.
The vast majority of concert goers ignored health ministry and World Health Organization directives to social distance or wear masks, although President Kiir wore a face covering.
Dr. Angelo Guop Kouch, director of South Sudan’s Public Health Emergency Operation Center, which manages COVID-19 cases in the country, said the gathering was not advisable, saying “health authorities should be involved when there are such activities in the country because of the crowd.”
A World Health Organization epidemiologist in South Sudan, Dr. Joseph Wamala, said new strains of COVID-19 have emerged that can spread more easily in South Sudan.
“The identification of this new strain is really a reason for countries to reinforce measures to limit spread through the recommended measures; using the mask, observing respiratory etiquette,” Dr. Wamala told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
To date, COVID-19 has had a relatively light impact on South Sudan, with just 3,511 confirmed cases and only 63 deaths.
But that situation could quickly change, says Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Thuou Loi Cingoth.
“People are dying of COVID-19 and right now we have people who are in critical condition in our facility affected by COVID-19. Now, whether we are going to go to the stage of asking the law enforcement agencies to ensure that measures against COVID-19 are adhered to by the public, I still don’t know. But it is our appeal that the public listen,” Dr. Loi told South Sudan in Focus.
Saturday’s concert was an “absolute violation of our declared and official position as the Ministry of health,” Dr. Loi added.
One of the concert organizers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the concert was organized by the K2 company belonging to the brother of South Sudanese businesswoman Achai Wiir, and that it was difficult to maintain protective measures because turnout was far more than organizers had anticipated.