The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in South Sudan increased to 563 on Friday, May 22, as a further 82 people tested positive for the disease. Although the country recorded few COVID-19 cases in April, South Sudan has seen an exponential increase in the number of infections since the beginning of May, with the number of cases more than doubling in the past week. The country's new Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) has been hit particularly hard by the outbreak. At least ten government ministers, including First Vice President Riek Machar and his wife, Defence Minister Angelina Teny, as well as dozens of their aides, have tested positive for the disease after a member of the country's COVID-19 task force began displaying symptoms last week.
While most of South Sudan's confirmed COVID-19 cases have been in Juba, there are concerns that a significant outbreak in the country's sprawling Protection of Civilians (POC) sites could quickly spread out of control. Authorities have identified cases at a large POC site in Juba, which houses around 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), and another in the northern town of Bentiu where almost 120,000 people are sheltered. However, COVID-19 testing in the POC sites has also been limited.
Despite these concerns and the increasing number of confirmed cases, the government began easing some of its measures aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, May 7. Markets, shops, bars, and restaurants have since been allowed to reopen and the nationwide curfew pushed back to 22:00 to 06:00 (local time). Schools, churches, mosques, and nightclubs remain closed and sports, funerals, and other public gatherings suspended. The wearing of protective facemasks is mandatory in meetings, public places, and on public transport.
The South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority (SSCAA) also announced the resumption of a limited number of international flights on Tuesday, May 12, although these have continued to be canceled at short notice. Travelers will be required to present medical certificates confirming a negative COVID-19 test and will be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival into the country.
As of Friday, May 22, there have been 563 confirmed cases of the virus nationwide and six associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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