GENEVA – The World Well being Group has recorded 65 circumstances of the coronavirus amongst workers based mostly at its headquarters, together with a minimum of one cluster of infections, an inner e mail obtained by The Related Press reveals, regardless of the company’s public assertions that there was no transmission on the Geneva website.
The revelation comes amid a surge of circumstances in Europe, host nation Switzerland, and the town of Geneva, specifically, and the e-mail mentioned about half of the infections had been in individuals who had been working from dwelling. However 32 had been in workers who had been engaged on premises on the headquarters constructing, indicating that the well being company’s strict hygiene, screening and different prevention measures weren’t adequate to spare it from the pandemic.
Raul Thomas, who heads enterprise operations at WHO, emailed workers on Friday noting that 5 folks — 4 on the identical group and one who had contact with them— had examined optimistic for COVID-19. Whereas the e-mail didn’t use the time period “cluster,” one is mostly outlined as two or extra circumstances in the identical space and the 5 circumstances point out primary an infection management and social distancing procedures had been seemingly being damaged.
A earlier e mail he despatched on Oct. 16 indicated that no clusters had been discovered on the website.
“As per commonplace protocols, these colleagues are receiving the mandatory medical consideration and are recovering at dwelling,” the e-mail Friday mentioned. “These final 5 circumstances carry the whole reported variety of affected members of the Geneva based mostly workforce to 65 for the reason that starting of the pandemic.”
Farah Dakhlallah, a WHO spokeswoman, confirmed the accuracy of the details about the case rely in an e mail to the AP.
Thomas’ e mail didn’t specify who was contaminated, however a WHO staffer with direct information of the scenario who spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of she was not approved to talk to the press mentioned the cluster included a member of the WHO director-general’s management group who can be an an infection management specialist.
The senior supervisor reportedly held a number of in-person conferences at WHO in early November earlier than testing optimistic final week. The individual, contacted by the AP, referred all feedback to the WHO media workplace.
Based on the e-mail, 49 of the general circumstances had occurred within the final eight weeks, “thus very a lot in keeping with the scenario being reported in Geneva and the encircling areas.” He added that “a better variety of circumstances amongst those that telework might need gone unreported.”
Enhanced measures to “scale back our danger profile” had been being thought of, the e-mail mentioned.
“Lastly, members of the workforce are reminded that bodily conferences, together with gatherings in widespread areas or within the cafeteria, are strongly discouraged and may solely happen the place completely crucial,” it added.
Elsewhere in Geneva, eating places are amongst many public venues which were closed to forestall the unfold of COVID-19.
Final month, Thomas instructed WHO staffers the company was proscribing entry to its Geneva headquarters to crucial staffers, together with senior administrators, their assistants and administration officers. “All members for the workforce are reminded to at all times maintain correct hand hygiene, respect bodily distancing requirements (a minimum of one meter) and put on masks, when distancing shouldn’t be attainable,” he wrote.
In regular instances, an estimated 2,400 folks often work at WHO’s seven-story headquarters overlooking Geneva. Because the pandemic has swelled within the space, staffers have been inspired to work at home when attainable. Non-staff guests have been required to put on masks, and entry to the constructing has been curtailed.
And forward of WHO’s weeklong assembly of its member states final week — which was largely digital — staffers had been instructed in an inner e mail to take further precautions, together with mask-wearing in public locations.
On Monday, from an enormous assembly room on the headquarters, WHO Director-Normal Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and different officers had been taking part in a session of the company’s newest govt board assembly, which was largely performed by video convention. He was coming back from a two-week self-quarantine at dwelling after coming into contact with an individual who examined optimistic. As a result of Tedros didn’t present any signs himself, he was not examined for COVID-19 however stayed at dwelling out of an abundance of warning.
On Nov. 2, WHO’s technical lead for the COVID-19 response, Maria Van Kerkhove, instructed reporters there had been no transmission or clusters at headquarters, earlier than including: “However it’s one thing that we’re monitoring each day.”
The WHO press workplace didn’t reply to 2 emails from the AP — on Nov. 2 and Nov. 10 — asking what number of staffers based mostly at WHO headquarters had examined optimistic for COVID-19.
Cheng reported from London.
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