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COVID-19 Cases Jump in South Sudan

FILE - A member of a medical team, wearing a protective suit, cleans the airfield to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease, at the Juba International Airport in Juba, South Sudan, April 5, 2020.

South Sudan should expect to see a spike in coronavirus cases in coming days, according to at least one public health expert.

Twenty-eight new cases were confirmed Tuesday by the country’s high-level task force on COVID-19, bringing the total to 34.

Dr. Akuay Cham, an associate professor at the College of Public Health at the University of Juba, called the one-day increase in the number of confirmed cases worrying and said it indicated the virus was being transmitted locally.

“When we have, for example, an imported case, a case coming from outside, it is easy to track. But now you start having community transmission, in which you don’t know who is carrying what,” Cham told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

First Vice President Riek Machar, deputy chairman of the task force, said 10 other test results came back unclear and must be retested. He said the new confirmed cases had all come in contact with one person.

“All 28 confirmed cases and eight cases with inclusive test results are contacts of the fifth case, who was a member of Tonj Community Peace Mission,” Machar told VOA.

He said all of the individuals were isolated at the same quarantine site.

'Respect the directives'

The jump in cases should make South Sudanese realize the seriousness of the situation, said the first vice president.

“We want citizens to respect the directives given to them by the high-level task force so that we protect ourselves and our nation,” said Machar.

South Sudan’s task force on COVID-19 said it had tested nearly 600 samples to date.

The task force announced Wednesday that a curfew in Juba would begin an hour earlier, at 7 p.m., effective immediately.

It said all bars, food stalls and restaurants except those offering takeout service were closed until further notice.

Efforts to fight the pandemic should include consideration of mass testing, beginning in Juba, Cham said.

“Let citizens not take this as responsibility of the government. It is every one of us; you have to be responsible for your life, and it is not an issue of the government, you have to take it personal. Be a responsible citizen,” Chan said.

The task force has urged the public to practice social distancing and to wash hands regularly with soap.