Geneva (AP) – The World Health Organization has registered 65 cases of coronovirus among employees at its headquarters, including at least one cluster infection, an internal email obtained by the Associated Press, despite the agency’s previous claim to Geneva No broadcast on site.
The revelation occurs in Europe, the host country Switzerland, and especially in the city of Geneva amidst escalation of cases, and the email states that about half of the infections were in people who were working from home. But there were 32 employees working on the premises in the headquarters building, indicating that the health agency’s strict sanitation, screening and other preventive measures were not sufficient to protect it from the epidemic.
The WHO spokesman, Farah Dakhlalla, confirmed the accuracy of the information about the case count in an email to the AP and officials were still investigating.
“We have not yet established whether the transmission has occurred on campus, but are looking into the matter,” said Dakhlalla.
Raul Thomas, who conducts business operations at the WHO, emailed employees on Friday that five people – four in the same team and the person contacting them – had tested positive for COVID-19. While the term “cluster” was not used in email, one is typically defined as two or more cases in the same area, and five cases indicate basic infection control and social disturbance processes. Are falling apart.
An email sent last October 16 indicated that no clusters had been found on the site.
“According to standard protocol, these colleagues are receiving the necessary medical attention and recovering at home,” the email said on Friday. “These last five cases bring the total number of affected members of the Geneva-based workforce to 65 since the onset of the epidemic.”
The email did not specify who was infected, but a WHO employee who had direct knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said The cluster consisted of members of the leadership team of the Director-General of WHO is also an infection control specialist.
Thomas’ email was sent after concerns by other WHO officials that those in contact with Cluster were still working at the Geneva Building and potentially exposing COVID-19 to others, The employee said.
The senior manager reportedly held several in-person meetings at the WHO in early November before testing positive last week. The person contacted by the AP referred all comments to the WHO media office.
The WHO has faced repeated criticism of dealing with the epidemic. US President Donald Trump accused the UN agency of “collusion” with China to hide the extent of the initial outbreak. In June, AP publicly praised WHO as China For its speed and transparency, even as private meetings disappointed WHO officials that the country was sitting on releasing serious outbreak information.
According to Thomas’ email, 49 of the total cases occurred in the last eight weeks, “in this way very much according to the situation being reported in Geneva and surrounding areas.” He said that “a high number of cases among those who have become obsolete for telecom”.
The email states that measures to “reduce our risk profile” are being enhanced.
“Ultimately, members of the workforce are reminded that physical meetings, including gatherings in common areas or cafeterias, are strongly discouraged and should only take place where necessary.”
Elsewhere in Geneva, restaurants are among several public places closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Last month, Thomas told WHO employees that the agency was limiting access to its Geneva headquarters, which included key staff including senior directors, their assistants and management officers. “All members of the workforce are reminded to always keep their hands clean, respect physical disturbance standards (at least one meter) and wear masks when possible,” he wrote.
In normal times, an estimated 2,400 people regularly work at the WHO’s seven-story headquarters that overlook Geneva. As the epidemic has spread in the area, employees have been encouraged to work from home when possible. Non-employee visitors are required to wear masks, and access to the building is barred.
And ahead of the WHO’s week-long meeting of its member states last week – which was mostly virtual – employees were told in an internal email to take extra precautions, including wearing masks in public places.
From a sprawling meeting room at the headquarters on Monday, WHO Director General Tedros Adnom Ghebayeus and other officials were attending a session of the agency’s latest executive board meeting, largely organized by video conference. He was returning home from a two-week self-quarantine after coming in contact with a person who tested positive. Because Tedros himself did not show any symptoms, he was not tested for COVID-19, but meticulously stayed at home.
On November 2, Maria Van Kerkhov, the technical lead for the WHO’s COVID-19 response, told reporters that there were no broadcasts or clusters at headquarters, before adding: “But this is something we’re monitoring every day Huh.”
WHO Press Office did not respond to two AP emails – November 2 and Nov 10 – Asked how many employees at WHO headquarters have tested positive for COVID-19.
Cheng reported from London.
Follow AP Epidemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic And https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak