UN Ghana staff tests positive for Coronavirus, office shutdown

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The United Nations (UN) has confirmed that it has shut down one of its offices in Ghana following a staff member testing positive for the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ghana last Thursday.

It confirmed that one of the two cases of COVID-19 announced by the Ghana government on Thursday, March 12, 2020, was a UN staff member who worked in one of the UN buildings up until the morning of March 12.

Consequently, the UN has said to ensure the safety of all staff in that building and the continuation of its work for sustainable development, the United Nations in Ghana has decided, as a precautionary measure, that staff on those premises should work from home.

"This measure is taken temporarily, and decisions are taken in coordination with the national authorities," the UN said in a press statement.

"This supports containment of COVID-19 and is in line with United Nations worldwide standard Business Continuity Procedures," it added.

It however explained that other staff working in other UN entities’ premises continue working in the office normally.

Last Friday the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah revealed that one of the confirmed Coronavirus cases in Ghana was a Ghanaian who returned to Ghana from Turkey.

Graphic Online gathers he returned to Ghana on February 29, 2020 from travel in Turkey and started feeling ill two days before he tested positive.

Graphic Online further gathers that during the time of travel and stay in Ankara, Turkey, there was no reported community transmission of COVID-19.

The other person in the two confirmed cases in Ghana is a Norwegian citizen.

They are both males who have been in Ghana for at least one week and that they entered Ghana through the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), Mr Nkrumah announced.

The two started showing symptoms on Thursday and they reported to a health facility, where after the tests, it was confirmed positive for COVID-19, Mr Nkrumah said. 

He said they have been in Accra since they arrived in Ghana and have been isolated since the case was confirmed and that contact tracing was still ongoing.

Ghana on Thursday night confirmed its first two cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Graphic Online also understands that the affected office shut down involves all agencies based at the UNDP-UNICEF compound in Accra.

As a precaution for the safety and well being of staff that normally work at the UNDP-UNICEF compound, the staff are to work from home until contact tracing is concluded and decisions taken in coordination with the national authorities.

All other UN staff in other compounds are however to go to work in their offices as usual.

At the global, regional and country levels, the United Nations is working closely with governments to support preparedness and response to address the global COVID-19 outbreak, the UN said in the press statement confirming its staff had tested positive in Ghana.

It said the UN team in Ghana, through the World Health Organisation (WHO) is working with the government to strengthen preparedness and response efforts.

"As many organisations and businesses worldwide, the UN has also taken measures to ensure it can continue its work to support countries towards peace, stability and prosperity for all the people we serve—and to continue addressing health-related or other types of emergencies," it said.

Such preparedness plan has also been set for UN team in Ghana, even before the first cases of COVID-19 was confirmed by the Ghana government on March 12, 2020.

It added that as the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres says, the World Health Organisation's characterization of a pandemic “is a call for action – for everyone, everywhere” adding that as we fight the virus “we cannot let fear go viral.”

The United Nations is actively addressing the global COVID-19 outbreak on several fronts - from situation reports and technical guidelines, through funding and partnerships, to advice for the public.

"We continue working closely with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak. In this effort, the United Nations in Ghana stand by the Government and people of Ghana, as it has done for the past 62 years."

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Attached below is a copy of the UN statement on the office shut down