United Nations (United States) (AFP) - All United Nations staff at its headquarters in New York were told Friday to work from home for at least three weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak unless it was essential for them to be present.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the plan was "to reduce our physical presence at United Nations Headquarters, while continuing to deliver on our mandates".
"Your health and well-being remain my greatest concern. Be safe, be smart, be kind," he said in a separate message to staff Thursday. About 3,000 UN employees are based in New York.
A Philippine diplomat this week tested positive for the new coronavirus in the first recorded case at UN headquarters.
Many organizations and companies around the world have sent staff home to try to reduce the spread of the virus.
The UN's European headquarters in Geneva, which counts around 1,600 staff, meanwhile announced Saturday a first case of a worker in the main building testing positive for COVID-19.
But it said the woman, who works with the UN Conference on Trade, Investment and Development (UNCTAD), had not been to work since exhibiting symptoms and that the risk of spread was considered low.
Several other workers in international organizations in Geneva have contracted the disease, including at the World Trade Organization, which has suspended all meetings until March 20.
The UN Geneva office, where the Human Rights Council on Friday suspended its session indefinitely over concern about the virus, followed New York's lead and said only staff whose physical presence was needed to carry out essential work would be permitted onto the premises, while everyone else should work remotely.
That announcement came after host-country Switzerland, which now counts over 1,350 cases and a dozen deaths in the outbreak, announced Friday a raft of measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, including closing schools and most places of leisure and tightening border controls.