SOUTH SUDAN – Even though the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in
South Sudan, the government is lifting several restrictions that are intended
to control the spread of the pandemic.
South Sudan COVID-19 task force member said Thursday that regional flights
would resume, and that markets, shops and bars would be allowed to reopen.
South Sudan Doctors Union called the decision rushed.
South Sudan Doctors Union does not see urgency in relaxing the rules and
directives of the lockdown at a time when our nation is experiencing [an]
exponential rise in COVID-19 cases and serious violations of control
measures,” the union said in a statement Friday.
Akuay Cham, an associate professor of public health at the University of Juba,
questioned whether the decision was based on sound reasoning.
is contrary to what is going on, on the ground. Cases are increasing and we are
moving in another direction, and this for me is very sad. I don’t know if the
government is trying to prioritize the economic impact of this pandemic rather
than lives,” Cham told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.
the last 10 days, the number of confirmed cases in South Sudan shot up from six
to 90. Sixteen new cases were reported Thursday.
decision to ease restrictions was made during Thursday’s cabinet meeting,
chaired by President Salva Kiir.
Richard Laku, a member of the task force, told reporters Thursday night that
the country’s curfew would start three hours later at 10 p.m. and that other
restrictions would be lifted.
internal travel by air, land and river, allowing regional flights back to South
Sudan, reopening markets, shops, tea places, bars and restaurants. However,
schools, churches, mosques, nightclubs will remain closed. Sports, funerals and
other public gatherings will remain suspended,” Laku said.
the lifting of restrictions was to take effect in 72 hours after Thursday’s
announcement, some Juba restaurants and bars already reopened Friday.
urged people to continue to wear masks.
masks is mandatory in meetings, public places, buses, and bodabodas and
rickshaws. People should also continue experiencing thorough washing of hands
and using disinfectants,” Laku said.
did not take questions from reporters, and calls to his office for comment
Friday went unanswered.
calls to Dr. Magok Kuol Gordon, the incident manager for the COVID-19 task
force, and Ateny Wek Ateny, Kiir’s press secretary, also went unanswered.
Sudan joins Uganda and Rwanda in lifting some COVID-19 protective measures, but
while Uganda and Rwanda have shown progress in slowing the spread of the virus
in their countries, South Sudan has not.
noted that South Sudan has one COVID-19 testing machine and a public health
laboratory and only a few isolation centers.
“I would expect
the government to establish isolation centers, and the government to increase
mass testing, so that we know where we are when the disease is spreading,”
Cham told VOA.
Right now, most people
known or suspected to have COVID-19 in South Sudan self-isolate because of the
lack of quarantine centers.
The head of the U.N.
Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, predicted the number of
confirmed cases in South Sudan would increase because, he said, the virus has
spread to a broader community.
He said decisions
about lifting restrictions should be based on good science and international
“We don’t need to
make them up; they’re all there and are being used all over the world. Once
those measures are in place, all those critical activities that can be done
safely should continue right across South Sudan. If we don’t do that, many more
people will die – not from COVID-19, but from other problems, like
intercommunal fighting, hunger and disease,” Shearer said in an online
Shearer said the work
of U.N. agencies across South Sudan must continue uninterrupted during the
pandemic in order to save lives.
“If it doesn’t,
the ramifications of COVID-19 will be much worse,” he said. “We
should learn the lessons from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Eleven
thousand people died from Ebola, but many, many more died from preventable
problems like hunger, cholera and malaria. That’s why the U.N.’s work must go
on despite COVID-19. Food supplies, health services, reconciliation activities
to bring peace between warring communities — all these actions make a huge
difference in this country and must continue.”
The U.N. has had to
rotate staff at health centers and peace-building efforts during the pandemic,
but Shearer said UNMISS had played a decisive role in setting up South Sudan’s
COVID-19 protective measures.
and UNMISS have already made a major contribution, including helping set up the
National Public Health Laboratory and rehabilitation labs in Yambio, Nimule and
Wau, providing technical and logistical support for national surveillance,
laboratory testing, contact tracing and case management through WHO,”
He noted the U.N. had
also prepositioned a year’s worth of nutritional supplies for refugees and
vulnerable families, set up community handwashing sites, and provided tents and
solar lighting for hospitals.
Source: Voice of America