At least 65 staff of the World Health Organization (WHO) have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, an internal email obtained by the Associated Press shows.
The email said about half of the infections were people who had been working from home, but 32 were in staff who had been working on premises at the headquarters building where strict hygiene, screening and other preventive measures are in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
AP said Raul Thomas, who heads business operations at WHO, emailed staff on Friday noting that five people – four on the same team and one who had contact with them – had tested positive for COVID-19.
“As per standard protocols, these colleagues are receiving the necessary medical attention and are recovering at home,” the email Friday said. “These last five cases bring the total reported number of affected members of the Geneva based workforce to 65 since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Farah Dakhlallah, a WHO spokeswoman, confirmed the accuracy of the information about the case count in an email to the AP.
The report said Thomas’ email did not specify who was infected but quoted a WHO staffer with direct knowledge to the situation as saying the cluster included a member of the WHO director-general’s leadership team who is also an infection control specialist.
The report added that the senior manager reportedly held several in-person meetings at the WHO in November before testing positive last week.
According to the email obtained by the AP, 49 of the overall cases had occurred in the last eight weeks.
An estimated 2,400 people regularly work at the WHO’s seven-story headquarters overlooking Geneva. But most of them have been working from home while non-staff visitors have been required to wear masks, and access to the building has been curtailed.