The high-level task force on coronavirus has warned South Sudanese against xenophobic behaviors triggered after confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Last evening, South Sudan confirmed the second case of the pandemic. The patient is a 53-year-old woman, a UN employee who traveled to Juba from Kenya on March 23.
The first patient is also a 29-year-old female UN staff who arrived from the Netherlands via Addis Ababa on the 28th of February.
In its 17th meeting held in Juba yesterday, the High-Level Task on coronavirus said it would not tolerate hate speech and xenophobic reactions by South Sudanese.
Xenophobia is a strong feeling of dislike or fear of people from other countries.
“We urge our people to refrain from spreading hate speech and indulging in xenophobic activities,” Dr. Makur Koriom, the undersecretary at the ministry of health, told the press on Tuesday evening.
He said COVID-19 pandemic is a disease that has inflicted pain on humanity in all races and nationalities-either poor or rich.
“For that reason, targeting individuals of particular countries on the basis of being or on the assumption that the COVID-19 is their disease is unacceptable, and the government will not hesitate to punish those who engage in such activities,” Dr. Koriom warned.
He also called on the public to adhere to the guidelines of health authorities by observing social distancing and regularly washing hands among other preventive measures.
“The only way you can avoid COVID-19 infection is by listening to advice given by health care professionals, observing rules of social distancing, reporting suspicious cases and stay at home when you have nothing to do outside.”
He further advised South Sudanese to avoid crowded places such as bars and restaurants, saying “home is the safest place for you.”
On Monday, the Screen of Rights – an anti-hate speech campaigner also warned some young people over incitement against UN workers following the confirmation of the first case of coronavirus in the country.
According to the national human rights organization, online incitement against the UN has increased since the COVID-19 case was confirmed on Sunday.
Reech Malual who heads the organization said some social media users have come out calling for youth to attack United Nations premises and other non-governmental organizations in a claim that such entities have brought coronavirus into the country.
Hate speech is a crime against humanity and an offense as provided in the Media Authority Act of 2013.
Article 29 of the Act stipulates that if damages caused by hate speech is established to be serious, a prison term of up to five years may be handed down to the offender.
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