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UN chief requires all staff to telecommute for 4 weeks

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-03-14 09:23
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Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting about the situation in Syria at UN Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, February 28, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday demanded all UN staff to telecommute and work remotely from March 16 to April 12, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the UN headquarters in New York.

"I have therefore decided that from Monday, March 16 to Sunday, April 12, 2020, all staff will be required to telecommute and work remotely, unless their physical presence in the building is needed to carry out our essential work in New York and around the world," said the UN chief in a letter sent to all UN staff seen by Xinhua.

"Given recent developments in the wider United Nations family in New York, and based on extensive consultations with senior management, including the medical director, I have decided to step up measures at United Nations headquarters to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus," said the secretary-general.

Guterres noted that the decision is twofold: "reduce our physical presence at United Nations headquarters; and continue delivering on our mandates."

"It is essential that we reduce social contact to a minimum and follow the clear instructions of the World Health Organization to minimize the risks of transmitting the infection," he said.

Noting that although UN staff are "working from different locations, using different technologies," the UN chief said headquarters staff "will continue to provide critical support to our offices and missions in the field, as well as to the intergovernmental processes."

"I urge anyone with symptoms or health-related questions to contact the Medical Service, with full respect for each other's privacy. I also encourage staff to reach out to each other and to check in on those who may be feeling vulnerable or isolated," he said.

"Over the next days and weeks, we will depend on each other's sense of responsibility and professionalism more than ever. I have the utmost confidence in the commitment of staff to keeping each other safe, while continuing to deliver for the people we serve," said the secretary-general.

A delegate from the permanent mission of the Philippines to the United Nations has tested positive for COVID-19, the first known case at the UN headquarters in New York, a UN spokesman said Thursday.

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