President Salva Kiir’s recent comments on the coronavirus in the country have come in sharp contrast with reports published by the World Health Organization and his own administration.
On Monday, 31 August, President Salva Kiir claimed South Sudanese had not been affected by the virus in comparison to other countries.
He told those gathered at the signing ceremony of the Sudanese peace agreement that the pandemic had not had a major shock on the country because “the people are poor”.
He invoked God’s name by stating that the coronavirus will still not have a major impact on South Sudan, Sudan and other neighboring countries.
This is in contradiction to his previous statements were he warned South Sudanese against violating public health directives set by his government.
While previously recognizing the danger posed by the disease, the President in April issued an order banning all social gatherings such as sport, religious events, social or cultural events, among others.
He later relaxed the directives permitting the operations of bars, restaurants, boda-boda, rickshaws, intra-state travels and international flights.
Since then, cases have steadily climbed as leaders and ordinary citizens continue to violate social distancing rules in political, funeral, communal and other social events.
So far South Sudan has recorded 47 deaths and 2,519 confirmed cases.
In May, President Kiir cautioned that if the country is not careful, the numbers could shoot up to unmanageable conditions.
“Our health system may not be able to withstand overwhelming emergencies we have witnessed in other countries if things get worse,” he warned.
In July, he again reiterated his appeal to the public to maintain social distancing, wear face masks, and commit to regular hand washing.
“The sharpest weapon available to us against the spread of coronavirus is individual precautions,” the president said.
His new comments have been viewed by medical experts as contrary to facts on the grown and public health guidelines set by his administration.
The coronavirus Incident Manager at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Richard Ladu, asserted that the pandemic has greatly affected livelihoods and the economy of South Sudan.
“Yes, the magnitude may not be the same in South Sudan like in other countries but you say about the impact, the impact is there; we lost 47 people,” Dr. Ladu stated.
He maintained that the virus has disrupted the socio-economic activities in the country.
“Covid-19 has impacted everywhere, all over the world not only South Sudan,” he added.
In July, the Director-General of the World Health Organization stated that most governments do not communicate the right messages to the citizens about the virus.
“Although our world has changed, the fundamental pillars of the response have not: political leadership, and informing, engaging and listening to communities,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom.
He warned that the coronavirus pandemic may get worse if governments do not enforce public health directives.
“During this pandemic, we have seen that mass gatherings have the potential to act as super spreading events,” Dr. Adhanom stressed.
According to the World Health Organization, the virus, like cold and flu, can be spread via droplets. When a person coughs or sneezes, the droplets are spread further.
You can get the virus when you touch your mouth, nose or eyes with infected hands.
WHO highly recommends frequent hand-washing, coughing into the bend of your elbow, staying home when sick, avoiding crowding and wearing masks.
“Keep your distance from others, clean your hands, avoid crowded and enclosed areas, and wear a mask where recommended,” said Dr. Adhanhom.
In South Sudan, the public is encouraged to report any suspected coronavirus case to the nearest health facility or call the toll-free line: 6666
You are also urged to practise social distancing by avoiding crowded places.
On Monday, May 25, President Kiir reminded the nation to remain cautious and observe health guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health in order to control the spread of the pandemic.
He encouraged people to stay at home instead of congregating at tea places –politicking.
“The whole world is struggling to contain the pandemic and South Sudan should be extra cautious in ensuring that we do not reach the levels we have seen in other countries,” he emphasized.
The current global coronavirus cases stand at 25,533,08.
851,647 have died from the virus while 16,865,101 have recovered across the world.
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