COVID-19 – UN Offices & other topics - Daily Briefing (16 March 2020)
Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
- COVID-19 - UN Offices
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Honour Roll
COVID 19 - UN OFFICES
The Spokesman said he would to do in-person briefings, but that a system will be put in place for resident correspondents so they can text in questions to the briefing.
Around the world, UN teams are also working with authorities to support national preparedness and response plans around COVID-19, including immediate health priorities and broader social and economic impacts.
In several countries, UN teams are temporarily providing full time staff members to support governments, providing additional expertise in areas such as public health, humanitarian and emergency response, as well as community awareness and risk communications. Different UN entities are fast-tracking procurement of essential items for the national response, while upholding international transparency standards. Our teams are also supporting governments to get emergency funding for their COVID-19 plans, including from the World Bank.
In Asia, some teams, with World Health Organization and other entities, are working to support government efforts in areas such as finance and economy, education and water and sanitation, with immediate support to garment factory and migrant workers and a special focus on women.
In Kenya, the UN has offered five communications experts to support the government's efforts and also met today with 25 business leaders to boost public-private partnerships to address COVID-19.
UN communications experts in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa are also supporting the governments' community awareness and risk communications efforts.
And several countries in the region have UN teams participating with the Pan-American Health Organization and WHO in National Emergency Committees, with the UN's communications experts in Costa Rica and Ecuador also supporting national communications strategies around COVID-19. In Brazil, the UN country team and national partners, in coordination with government authorities, have already activated the contingency plan in the shelters in the north and are disseminating prevention messages in Spanish tailored to communities of migrants and refugees who have arrived from Venezuela - in addition to the regular national campaign in Portuguese.
The World Food Programme said today it is providing lifesaving medical equipment worth $500,000 to help China's frontline hospitals in Hubei support the Government's effort to combat COVID-19. Supporting the Government in the treatment of severe cases of COVID-19, WFP is providing oxygenation equipment and ventilators for treating critically ill patients.
UNESCO today said that an unprecedent number of children, youth and adults are not attending schools or university because of COVID-19, with 56 countries having closed schools nationwide, impacting more than 516 million children and youth. A further 17 countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these closures become nationwide, hundreds of millions of additional learners will experience education disruption.
UNESCO is providing immediate support to countries as they work to minimize the educational disruption and facilitation of continuity of learning, especially for the most vulnerable.
At UN Headquarters the Secretary-General wrote to staff before the weekend to stress that the Organization remains open for business but our work will be done from different locations using different technologies. He stressed that it is essential that we reduce social contact to a minimum and follow clear instructions of the WHO to minimize the risks of transmitting infections as well as continue to deliver on our mandates. The Secretary-General said we need to reduce the physical presence at UN Headquarters, and this reduced staffing level will be assessed in three
weeks. He noted the Headquarters staff in New York will continue to provide critical support the other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna, as well as missions in the field and to an array of intergovernmental processes that must continue, such as the work of the Security Council. This morning, the Secretary-General has been on the phone with the heads of UN duty stations in different parts of the world as well as country offices to check in on them an offer not only solidarity but support.
Noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
- COVID-19 - UN Offices
- Central African Republic
- Global Goals
- Financial Contribution
UN teams around the world are continuing to offer support to national and local authorities to prepare and respond to the pandemic.
In Zimbabwe, upon the Government's request, the UN is also supporting the most immediate preparedness needs such as training of healthcare workers, while ensuring their own safety, on caring for patients with COVID-19. The UN is also supporting the Government with the school system's preparation, with posters for schools and leaflets for students to take home and share with families, while also preparing for potential home-schooling needs.
The UN is also engaging with the private sector and civil society for a whole-of-society response to COVID-19. In parallel, the UN has also supported the Government in developing a Risk Communication and Community Engagement Preparedness, Readiness, Response Plan, as well as public information material for distribution and display at health centres and other public places, including airports and other points of entry into Zimbabwe.
In China, the UN team has been supporting national and local efforts to share information on COVID-19 through traditional and social media channels targeting various age groups and communities. These efforts have helped reach over 1 billion views on several social media channels.
UN entities also translated COVID-19 preparedness messages in more than 40 languages and dialects tailored to the elderly or those in ethnic minority communities.
On social media, the most prominent is the Social Distancing Campaign jointly launched by the WHO and the Resident Coordinator, which has attracted over 51 million views and more than 540,000 people have participated in online discussions. A subsequent online survey conducted in early March indicated a 34 per cent increase of people maintaining social distancing since the outbreak, and more than 90 per cent of survey respondents correctly identified hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and social distancing as some of the top four WHO recommendations.
The World Health Organization today called on Member States in South-East Asia to urgently scale-up aggressive measures to combat COVID-19, as confirmed cases cross 480, with eight deaths.
Eight of the 11 countries in WHO's South-East Asia region have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the numbers of cases are increasing quickly.
While this is an indication of an alert and effective surveillance, it also puts the spotlight on the need for more aggressive and whole of society efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19, WHO said. We clearly need to do more, and urgently. Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the 64th Commission on the Status of Women.
Mr. Guterres said that he was truly saddened that the extraordinary circumstances ushered in by the spread of the COVID-19 virus led to the postponement of the full session, but he added that he takes heart in knowing that all participants remain committed to the cause of gender equality.
He said that, "centuries of discrimination, deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems and our corporations. This simply has to change," he said.
The Secretary-General added that he was particularly heartened to see a new generation of inspired young activists across the globe taking forward the spirit of constructive action and fearless resilience started in Beijing 25 years ago. He reiterated the UN's commitment to keep working with women across the world, to ensure women and girls everywhere have equal participation in all areas of life.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, marked International Women's Day yesterday in Port Moresby, in Papua New Guinea, where she spoke about the Spotlight Initiative, a partnership launched by the UN and the European Union in 2016 to support governments, communities and civil society organizations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. She said that Spotlight is the world's largest effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
The Deputy Secretary-General warned that around the world, there is an epidemic of violence against women and girls. One in three women will be affected by violence at some point in their lives she said, adding that a recent survey by the United Nations Development Programme found that around the world, nearly three people in every ten think it's acceptable for a man to beat his partner.
The United Nations in New York and Geneva is to start implementing measures to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for its staff, including telecommuting and flexible working arrangements, the UN spokesperson said today in New York.
"Following internal meetings over the weekend, taking into account the declaration of a state of emergency for New York State, it was announced today to all staff that it is recommended that UN personnel who have recently returned from countries identified by the host country should remain at home and self-monitor for 14 days," United Nations Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday (9 Mar).
"Telecommuting and flexible work arrangements have also been recommended for UN personnel taking into account business continuity requirements," he added
At the same time, Dujarric said, "the UN in Geneva aims to maintain essential activities while postponing or cancelling other activities. The Palais des nations is also considering how to put the latest recommendations on telecommuting issued by the Swiss authorities into practice."
The spokesperson reported that over the weekend, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the global number of confirmed cases now topped 100,000.
WHO pointed out that some countries are demonstrating that the spread of the virus can be slowed and its impact reduced through the use of universally applicable actions, such as working across society to identify people who are sick, bringing them to care, and following up on contacts. Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General has just received a message from Mr. Salame expressing his intention to leave his post as Special Representative for Libya.
The Secretary-General has always had full confidence in Mr. Salame's work and the great efforts he has made to bring peace to Libya.
The Secretary-General will be discussing with Mr. Salame the way to ensure a smooth transition so as not lose any momentum on the gains that have been made.
Also on Libya, you saw that, over the weekend, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the indiscriminate bombing of several parts of Tripoli, including residential areas and the airport in Tripoli.
The Secretary-General calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and recalls the recently adopted Security Council resolution 2510 (2020) and urges its implementation.
Turning to the COVID-19, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke to reporters today in Geneva.
He said the number of cases China continues to decline, with 206 cases reported to the WHO yesterday - that's the lowest number since 22 January. Outside of China, a total of 8,739 cases have been reported in 61 countries with 127 deaths.
Dr. Tedros noted that, in the last 24 hours, there were almost 9 times more cases reported outside of China than inside China, with the epidemics in the Republic of Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan being WHO's greatest concern.
Also on COVID-19, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, yesterday released $15 million from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to help fund global efforts to contain the virus.
This funding has been released to the WHO and to UNICEF for monitoring the spread of the virus, investigating cases and the operation of national labs, among other essential activities.
Mr. Lowcock said that swift and robust action must be taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients, and trace contacts, stressing that we must act now to stop this virus from putting more lives at risk. Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
COVID-19 - UN OFFICES
In duty stations around the world, UN staff are taking precautions and doing what they can to flatten the curve of the COVID 19 infections.
At UN Headquarters in Kenya, managers are required to implement remote working to the full extent compatible with business continuity, in order to substantially reduce personnel exposures to transit and other crowded areas. Full implementation of telecommuting up to three days a week will significantly reduce the staffing footprint of the Nairobi complex, and therefore reduce risk to personnel.
Similarly, the United Nations in Ghana has decided, as a precautionary measure, that staff normally working in these premises should from now work from home. This measure is taken for a period of time.
After consultation with the heads of the UN agencies in Iran, the Resident Coordinator has there recommended on 1 March the full implementation of organizational business continuity plans, including work from home. The decision followed steep increase in COVID-19 cases in Iran, including of one UN staff member. The UN in Iran is still fully working from home, an arrangement that is reviewed weekly by managers.
In Geneva, guided tours have been suspended. Cultural events organized by Member States and international organizations together with the UN Office in Geneva have also been cancelled.
As of next Monday, and until further notice, the entrance to the Palais des Nations would be strictly reserved to UN and non-UN personnel whose workplace or office is located in the Palais de Nations complex; people coming into the Palais for essential official meetings; and journalists with permanent accreditation will be allowed in.
At UN Headquarters in New York, security staff said that the number of swipes at the different entrances to the compound on the 4th March - the day before the first measures were put in place - was 11,033 and last Wednesday, 11th March it had dropped to 5,393. The preliminary numbers for today showed an even steeper drop. The UN will continue to reduce its footprint.
Dr. Tedros said that more than 132,000 cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to the World Health Organization, from 123 countries and territories. He added that 5,000 people have now lost their lives, calling this a tragic milestone.
He added that Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China. More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.
He reiterated his message to countries: you must take a comprehensive approach. Not testing alone, not contact tracing alone, not quarantine alone, not social distancing alone - do it all, he said.
He added that any country that looks at the experience of other countries with large epidemics and thinks "that won't happen to us" is making a deadly mistake. It can happen to anyone, he warned.
Together with the UN Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, the World Health Organization launched the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to allow individuals and organizations to contribute.