United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has asked all staff at its New York headquarters to work from home, a spokesman announced late on Friday, March 13, after a diplomat from the Philippine mission to the U.N. tested positive for the coronavirus.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that all 3,000 staff members were told to work from home for three weeks, starting from Monday, March 16, unless they are needed to carry out essential services, The Associated Press reported.
However, meetings of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. General Assembly, and other key bodies and committees can still take place.
The decision is aimed at drastically reducing the number of staff at U.N. headquarters in order to reduce social contact to a minimum in light of the new coronavirus, Dujarric said.
The spokesman added that no U.N. staff member has reported testing positive for coronavirus, except for the Philippines diplomat.
The Philippine Mission announced on Thursday that a female diplomat representing the country in the U.N. General Assembly’s legal affairs committees came down with flu-like symptoms on Tuesday and then tested positive for coronavirus.
“As of today, the Philippine Mission is in lockdown, and all personnel are instructed to self-quarantine and to seek medical attention should they develop the symptoms. We are assuming that all of us have been infected,” Philippines acting U.N. Ambassador Kira Azucena wrote in a note.
According to Reuters, there are about 12 diplomats at the Filipino mission, which is on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
The United Nations began implementing coronavirus prevention measures at its headquarters after its health agency declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic, months after it first broke out in the city of Wuhan, China, late in 2019.
In a tweet on Friday, the secretary general also called on every government to step up its efforts to fight the virus.
#COVID19 is a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes.
But the spread of the virus will peak. Our economies will recover.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) March 13, 2020