The World Health Organization is dealing with a coronavirus cluster at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland — with a top infection control specialist at the global agency among those testing positive.
A Friday email to staffers obtained by the Associated Press said that five WHO employees, four on the same team, had recently contracted the bug — bringing the total number of agency workers who tested positive to 65 since the start of the pandemic, 49 of them in the past eight weeks.
Although the email did not refer to the new cases as a cluster, two or more cases in the same area are typically classified as such.
About half of the infected staffers were working from home, but 32 had been working out of the headquarters in Geneva.
One of the affected workers is an infection control specialist on the director general’s leadership team, a staffer told the news service.
The outbreak suggests that infection control measures and social distancing failed at the very agency charged with overseeing the spread of the pandemic and measures to develop a vaccine.
For example, a senior manager at WHO reportedly held several in-person meetings earlier this month before testing positive for the coronavirus.
In the Friday email, Raul Thomas, WHO’s head of business operations, told employees that measures to “reduce our risk profile” were now being considered.
“Finally, members of the workforce are reminded that physical meetings, including gatherings in common areas or cafeteria, are strongly discouraged and should only take place where absolutely necessary,” Thomas wrote.
The agency last month had restricted access to the Geneva facility to critical staffers and senior officials as a precaution against the virus, and reminded workers to wear masks, practice social distancing, and “always keep proper hand hygiene.”
About 2,400 people typically work out of the seven-story headquarters building in the Swiss city, although many have been assigned to work from home during the pandemic, which has spiked again in Europe and the US in recent weeks.
With Post Wires