A. Nature and description of emergency COVID-19 measures
The first COVID-19 case in South Sudan was identified on 5 April 2020.
- Republican order No 08/2020
On 20 March, the President issued the Republican order No. 08/2020 for the formation of a High-Level Task Force Committee to take extra precautionary measures in combating the spread of covid-19. This order is in line with article 106 A(2)(c) of the 2011 Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. The committee was in charge of conducting risk assessment on the recommendations provided by the Ministry of health. The Committee was also responsible for ensuring that quarantine facilities are set up and well equipped with both personnel and medicines to curb the spread of covid-19 infection. Further functions of the committee can be found here. On the same 20 March 2020, the Vice President Hussein Abdelbagi suspended all physical learning at all educational levels in both public and private schools for a period of one month and all health science institutions. This was also followed by a suspension of all gatherings ranging from sport to political and from religious to social.
- Communication from the Presidency No 3
On 23 March 2020, the First Vice President and Deputy Chairman of the COVID-19 Taskforce after reviewing the COVID-19 situation in South Sudan, the region and beyond ordered the closure of the Juba International Airport. All international flights destined to and from the Juba International Airport were to cease operation with effect from midnight on 24 March 2020. However, exceptions include food, cargo flights, aircraft in the state of emergency, flights passing through South Sudan airspace to other destinations, humanitarian aid operations including medical and relief flights, technical landings on the grounds that the passengers do not disembark from the flight and alternate aerodromes identified in the flight plan including extended diversion time operations. The order also included the closure of all border crossings through the use of vehicles with the exception of cargo vehicles and fuel tankers. The Taskforce also allocated USD 3 Million to cater to the needs of South Sudanese students studying in countries affected by COVID-19.
- Republican order No 09/2020
On 24 March 2020, the President also issued further directives in addition to the previous directives issued by the First Vice President and Chairman of the COVID-19 Taskforce on 23 March 202. The President directed all designated market areas and places to strictly adhere to personal hygiene and social distancing measures and warned businesses not to inflate the prices of essential goods and commodities to the detriment of the citizens. The President also imposed curfew all over the Country from 8 pm to 6 am which was to start from 25 March 2020. There was the prohibition of all gatherings except for emergency purposes, public and private transport by land and sea was prohibited, unified forces were to continue staying in their respective camps and strictly adhere to COVID-19 health measures. In order to ensure compliance with these regulations, the President ordered all security organs and law enforcement agencies to ensure strict implementation of the order. This order was valid for a period of 30 days.
- Communication from the Presidency No 5
On 26 March, the First Vice President and Deputy Chairman of the Taskforce together with other members of the Taskforce agreed for the establishment of screening points at the major crossing border points and directed that people who are caught entering the country illegally or evading the borders without undergoing the set procedures will be arrested, tested and quarantined for 14 days and later taken to court. The Taskforce also urged the general public to help the government in reporting such persons to the relevant authorities. Also, in order to meet the requirement of emergency workers such as airport workers, law enforcement and security agencies, the Taskforce directed the Ministries of Environment and Forestry, Transport and Interior to develop and submit a supplementary budget.
- Communication from the Presidency No 6
On 27 March 2020, the Taskforce granted the United States of America the permission to evacuate 68 of their citizens from South Sudan. The Taskforce further directed the Ministry of health to train and deploy health workers and also establish health posts at the border crossing points and ordered that everybody who is a new entrant to the country and who uses the border crossing points be quarantined for 14 days. The order also directed law enforcement agents to secure the borders and ensure adherence to the set measures. There were instructions given to the Minister of health to strengthen isolation units. The Bank of South Sudan was ordered to provide hard currency to Commercial Banks for the purchase of essential commodities like food, fuel and medicines but ordered that these purchases should be regulated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The Taskforce granted special entry permit to Pilots from COVID-19 affected countries on the grounds that they are quarantined for 14 days.
- Communication from the Presidency No 6
On 28 March, the Taskforce directed that non-essential workers must stay home on paid leave and also advised employers to allow their staff work virtually from home. At the same time, hawking was banned and boda bodas were also banned from transporting passengers except for delivering goods. Taxis and busses were allowed to continue operation but with half the normal capacity. Non-essential businesses like electronics, phones and clothes, hair salons and beauty shops were ordered to close and only business dealing with essential commodities like food, medicines, fuel and groceries etc were allowed to continue operation.
- Communication from the Presidency No 6
On 30 March 2020, the Taskforce urged the Ministry of Justice to ensure the speedy review of cases on remand, the release of juveniles and inmates with minor crimes or those approaching the completion of their sentence. Also, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in collaboration with the World Food Programme(WFP) agreed for the distribution of food to every household during the lockdown period. In putting measures in place to curb the virus, such as avoiding cashless transactions, the Taskforce encouraged the Bank of South Sudan to develop a regulatory framework for the starting of electronic payment system and mobile money services in banks and shopping centres. The Taskforce also directed the Ministries of Transport and Interior and the Juba City Council to ensure full compliance with the restrictions placed on the use of public transport system, restaurants, tea and shisha venues and reorganisation of public marketplaces. All international airports remained closed.
On 31 March 2020, the Vice President issued a Press Release entreating the people to remain calm and adhere to the guidelines issued by the Taskforce in order to prevent the importation of covid-19 to the Country.
- Communication from the Presidency No 11
On 1 April, the Taskforce directed all UNMISS and other humanitarian airplanes entering South Sudan to land at the Juba International Airport only before they continue their movement to other parts of the country. The Taskforce further directed the Ministries of health, Environment, and Forestry to disinfect all airplanes that landed at the Juba International Airport.
- Communication from the Presidency No 12
On 2 April, the Taskforce reaffirmed the directives from the President to reduce the work time for essential workers to only half-day starting from 7:30am to 1pm from Monday to Friday. This is an addendum to the previous directives which ordered non-essential workers to stay home. The Minister of Labour and Industrial relations were to implement these directives. Landing permissions to South Sudan was granted for business purposes with certain conditions and with strict adherence to quarantine.
- Communication from the Presidency No 13
- Communication from the Presidency No 14
The Task Force discussed some of the challenges regarding health facilities such as a small number of hospital beds, equipment and human resource. In this regard, the Taskforce welcomed the contributions of donor communities. For foreigners that sought permission to travel to South Sudan, they were reminded to strictly adhere to the 14-day quarantine.
- Communication from the Presidency No 15
On 5 April, the country had its first case of COVID-19. The Taskforce directed that all preceding measures were to continue. The Ministry of Health was directed to continue to strengthen the hygiene capacity of communities and households including the installation of handwashing stations and distribution of soap to communities especially those with huge populations. The government ordered for the postponement of weddings, festivals and other religious and sporting activities and directed that gatherings for funerals should not exceed five people.
- Communication from the presidency
No 56 the High-Level Task Force on coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic 13 May 2020
The High-Level Task Force held its 52nd meeting. Communication from the presidency No 57 the High-Level Task Force on coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic 14 May 2020. The High-Level Task Force held its 53rd meeting. In this regard, the Task Force urged the people to continue adhering to health guidelines and to report any suspected case of COVID-19. Dead bodies of persons affected by COVID-19 were prohibited from been transported by family members to their ancestral homes. Health facilities were also required to report cases of coronavirus to the relevant personnel at Dr John Garag infectious diseases centre or call the Ministry of Health’s toll-free hotline.
- Communication from the President
No 58 the High-Level Task Force on coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic 15 May 2020
The High-Level Task Force held its 54th meeting. There were no new measures taken in this meeting. The Ministers of Health briefed the High-Level Task Force on the number of cases of coronavirus in South Sudan. The High-Level Task Force appreciated the government of the Arab Republic of Egypt’s donation of medical equipment in the fight against COVID-19. The pledge of CITICO aviation which offered to transport six tons of COVID-19 materials anywhere in South Sudan was also appreciated by the High-Level Task Force
- The High-Level Task Force on COVID-19 pandemic final communication from the president No 59 18 May 2020
The president presented a summary of all efforts that had been made from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to 18 May 2020 by government and non-governmental organisations to curb the spread of COVID-19 in South Sudan. The contributions of other countries to South Sudan were also noted by the president. There were challenges the president identified. These challenges include Lack of health legal framework, poverty which contributed to people breaking COVID-19 regulations in order to make ends meet. The summary of the president’s speech can be found here.
- National Taskforce
On 17 May, the President appointed a new COVID-19 Task Force to replace the High-Level Task Force. The National Task Force on coronavirus disease chairperson order No 1 establishment of Transitional Committee 27 May 2020
On 27 May 2020, A Transitional committee was established by the National Taskforce to transfer the responsibilities on coronavirus disease from the High-Level Task Force to the National Task Force. Other responsibilities of the Transitional Committee can also be found here. The National Task Force on coronavirus disease chairperson order No 2/2020 establishment of Medical Advisory Panel 1 June 2020. A Medical Advisory Panel was established to assist the National Task Force with medical and scientific advisories regarding COVID-19 on issues relating to the mandate of the National Task Force. Further functions of the panel can be found here.
- Press release No1 statement on activities of the National Task Force on coronavirus disease
On 2 June 2020, the National Task Force vested the responsibility on the Transitional Committee to assist with ensuring that up to date information and harmonization of work between the former High-Level Taskforce and National Task Force occurred in order to ensure that up to date information on South Sudan’s preparedness to manage the coronavirus were regularly disseminated to the public.
- Communication from the presidency No sixty-four (64)
The National Task Force on coronavirus held its 6th meeting on 8 July 2020. The minutes of the 5th meeting were adopted by the National Task Force with amendments. There was also the inauguration of the Medical Advisory Panel. There were no measures introduced in this meeting, however, there were general discussions surrounding COVID-19. After a review of the 5th meeting, the National Task Force agreed on the following: the governors should be given adequate time to establish the task force in their respective states and administrative areas and the Secretary-General was given the responsibility to present documents concerning the legality of contracts related to COVID-19. Discussions on the situation of coronavirus in South Sudan were presented before the High-Level Task Force, while the UN group also briefed the National Taskforce concerning the waiver of COVID-19 free clearance certificate and clearance of humanitarian agencies. The National Task Force further urged the public to keep adhering to public health measures such as social distancing and other measures declared by the president and the Task Force
- Ministerial order no 1/2020
In accordance with the Republican order No 9/ 2020 of 24 March 2020 of the president of the Republic of South Sudan for protecting nationals of South Sudan from health risk of coronavirus and in accordance with article 114 of the Transitional Constitution, 2011 as amended, the Minister of Interior announced the imposition of a curfew. This curfew prohibited the movement of people from 8pm to 6am however, those with health issues requiring movements, radio staff on duty, SSB staff on duty, network operators on duty were to be granted special written permits. Violation of this order was taken as an offence and all security personnel were to enforce this order. This order was issued on 25 March 2020.
Since all educational facilities were suspended from 20 March 2020, the Ministry of General Education on 9 April 2020 made an announcement for the commencement of virtual learning via radio and television for students in primary and secondary schools. This virtual learning only covered compulsory subjects like Mathematics, English and Sciences.
Before the Country registered its first case of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health issued a statement on 13 March 2020 suspending all international flights to countries that recorded cases of COVID-19. Also, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued visa restrictions to citizens of countries that had recorded local infection and transmission of COVID-19. On 19 March, the Ministry of health issued directives to airlines operating in South Sudan not to allow passengers from countries with COVID-19 cases to board their flights. Failure to adhere to this constituted a heavy penalty. South Sudanese and those with valid permits were permitted to travel back to the country but were subject to 14 days self-quarantine. Airlines were strictly required to adhere to these directives failure of which will lead to penalties. The Ministry of Health also sought the collaboration of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Foreign affairs and international cooperation to carry this directive into effect. On 3 June, the Minister of Health signed a Ministerial Order for the immediate suspension of COVID-19 negative certificates.
- Response Plan
South Sudan 2020 humanitarian response plan COVID-19 addendum. On 19 March also, the Ministry of Health released COVID-19 Country Preparedness and Response Plan (CPRP), covering the period from April to September 2020.
B. Democracy-related issues arising from COVID-19 responses of states
In South Sudan, elections were supposed to be held in 2015 but a civil war that erupted in the Country, led to its postponement and when a peace accord was signed between the warring factions, the President’s mandate was extended to April 2018. The parliament, in July 2018, further extended the tenure of the President and the entire government until 2021. Simply put, there were no planned or held elections in South Sudan during the covid-19 period.
The directives issued in Part A of this study were done by the executive, see above.
Parliament in South Sudan has not reconstituted since February 2020.
- Judiciary (role of courts; decided cases related to COVID-19)
The Court addressed cases on violation of covid-19 directives. On 30 April, Prophet Abraham Chol Maketh was sentenced to one month in prison for violating the law on the prohibition of religious gathering after he held a gathering on 26 April 2020. Apart from the role the judiciary played, the High-Level Taskforce also monitored observance of its directives issued and ensured that senior government officials adhered to these directives.
- Transparency/ access to information
Regarding access to information, the government of South Sudan through the Ministry of health website provided information on daily update, weekly situation reports and the country’s operational plan. The government also provided a toll-free line (6666) for people to call and report any issue relating to Covid 19. On 25 March 2020, one of the mobile network providers, MTN South Sudan, donated 50 desktop, mobile phones and Airtime to the Ministry of Health Call Center. This was used to send SMS messages on Covid 19 in both English and local languages to the people.
- Abuse by law enforcement agents/exacerbation of authoritarian tendencies/power grabs
There were issues regarding instructions given by South Sudan authorities to shoot and kill anyone found violating night curfew. Government forces, including National Security Service officers, resorted to physical violence against those perceived to have broken curfew directives. On 26 April 2020, the South Sudanese Police arrested one Pastor Abraham Chol Maketh in the Capital, Juba for breaking the COVID 19 rule on the prohibition of gatherings. He was beaten and thrown into the police car naked by the law enforcement authorities. Also, on the 26 April 2020, 10 Pastors were arrested, humiliated and beaten at the Joint Security Operation Base in Yei River County by law enforcement authorities after they violated COVID 19 regulations on religious gathering. They were later released after some hours without any charge levied against them.
- Democratic reform
In February 2020, stringent strides were made towards forming a unity government. However, this move experienced some serious delay in constituting the legislature and establishing regional governance structures, this situation thus contributed to the governance vacuum in the country.
C. Human rights-related issues arising from COVID-19 responses of states
- Right to health (including infrastructure, access to testing)
Before COVID-19 in South Sudan, there were already issues regarding poor health care system which had led to a huge number of deaths. During COVID-19 outbreak in South Sudan, less than 50% of the state's healthcare facilities were operational and out of those operational, majority of them lacked professional healthcare works and the basic equipment needed. Initially, South Sudan had only 24 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and only four ventilators. On 12 June 2020, the UNDP donated 10 ventilators to the government as part of its help in the fight against COVID-19 making the total ventilators in the country to 14. On 19 June 2020, the Ministry of Health set up a mobile laboratory in Nimule which is considered a hotspot for COVID-19 infections. The UNHCR also contributed two ambulances and a vehicle to the Ministry of Health at Yambo yei and Kajokeji hospital. Beds and infection prevention equipment were provided for Juba teaching hospital and Al Sabah Children’s hospital in South Sudan. There were also donations of thermoscanners by the first lady of South Sudan. Business and professional women also supported the government by contributing hand washing equipment. There were health volunteers from the University of Juba to support the government.
The World Health Organisation(WHO) provided comprehensive training for over 800 health care workers virtually and another 270 were also trained on case management and infection prevention and control. In July, over 50 laboratory technicians were trained by WHO on handling and disposal of infectious and hazardous waste in order to reduce the rate of transmission among health care workers. Also, the Ministry of Health with support provided by WHO expanded the Infectious Disease Units bed capacity from 24 to 82 beds and provided other water and sanitation equipment which include:
1.Provision of viral haemorrhagic fever kits including essential medicines and other supplies to enhance infection prevention and control and prevent healthcare workers from contracting the virus,
2.Providing COVID-19 training materials,
3.Guiding and supporting the clinical team monitoring COVID-19 cases under the national home isolation strategy, with basic patient monitoring equipment such as blood pressure machines, infrared thermometers, pulse oximeters, personal protective equipment (PPE), transportation, essential medicines, payment of incentives and technical guidance on patient management and referral decision to designated facility for COVID-19.
- Right to housing (including homelessness, informal settlements, slums, shacks)
Internally displaced persons are among the most vulnerable groups affected by the covid-19 in South Sudan. Approximately, one and a half million of them are still living in deplorable conditions which makes it very difficult for the government announced measures to be adhered to. There were intending plans by the government to liaise with leaders of IDPs concerning the offer proposed by UNMISS to transport them back to their homes.
- Right to water and sanitation
The WHO provided comprehensive training for over 800 health care workers virtually and another 270 were also trained on case management and infection prevention and control. In July, over 50 laboratory technicians were trained by WHO on handling and disposal of infectious and hazardous waste in order to reduce the rate of transmission among health care workers. Also, the Ministry of health with support provided by WHO expanded the Infectious Disease Units bed capacity from 24 to 82 beds and provided other water and sanitation equipment which include:
1.Provision of viral haemorrhagic fever kits including essential medicines and other supplies to enhance infection prevention and control and prevent healthcare workers from contracting the virus, Providing COVID-19 training materials,
2. Guiding and supporting the clinical team monitoring COVID-19 cases under the national home isolation strategy, with basic patient monitoring equipment such as blood pressure machines, infrared thermometers, pulse oximeters, personal protective equipment (PPE), transportation, essential medicines, payment of incentives and technical guidance on patient management and referral decision to designated facility for COVID-19.
- Right to food/ nutrition and other socio-economic rights
International organisations played an important role in supporting South Sudan. UN agencies continued to assist with provision of food and health care services including reconciliation activities in order to ensure peace between warring communities in South Sudan during covid-19 pandemic. The United States also listed South Sudan among countries that were to benefit from the USD 100milion pledged by the United States to support countries in the pandemic. The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in collaboration with the World Food Programme(WFP) agreed to distribute food to every household during the lockdown period. There were also distribution of food to returnees back to South Sudan. The Trisar company also donated food items to support the government.
- Economic impact/ impact small business/ employment social security networks
The implementation of government announced measures which include social distancing, curfews and the closure of non-essential business had a drastic impact on small businesses, especially in the informal sector where women constitute the majority of the workforce.
- Women (including domestic violence)
In June 2020, the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan reported that they had received many allegations of sexual and gender-based violence since the first covid-19 case was reported in April. These allegations which include rape, gang rape, intimate partner violence, beatings, femicide, forced nudity and forced marriage are reported frequently.
- Children (including education)
The closure of schools on the 20 March affected tens of thousands of children and youth without access to adequate education. Access to the virtual learning service which only caters for the compulsory subjects was quite inaccessible to poorer households. Report reveals that this situation left these children vulnerable to sexual abuse.
- Persons with disabilities
At the time of carrying out this study, there was no available information on this.
- LGBTI persons
At the time of carrying out this study, there was no available information on this.
- Indigenous persons
At the time of carrying out this study, there was no available information on this.
At the time of carrying out this study, there was no available information on this
- Persons deprived of their liberty (persons in incarceration; police detention)
Because of the COVID-19 situation in the country around 1479 prisoners were released.
- Right to life and bodily security (arrests; deaths as a result of lockdown)
On 26 April, the South Sudanese Police arrested a Pastor in the Capital, Juba for breaking the COVID-19 law on the prohibition of gatherings. Also, on 26 April, 10 Pastors were arrested, humiliated and beaten in Yei River County by law enforcement authorities after they violated COVID-19 regulations on religious gathering.
- Freedom of assembly
Based on the COVID-19 measures issued by the High-Level Task Force( see part A above), there were restrictions on freedom of assembly. There were reports of violation of these restrictions. On 26 April, the South Sudanese Police arrested a Pastor in the Capital, Juba for breaking the COVID-19 law on the prohibition of gatherings. Also, on 26 April, 10 Pastors were arrested, humiliated and beaten in Yei River County by law enforcement authorities after they violated COVID-19 regulations on religious gathering.
- Freedom of movement
Movements were restricted based on the directives issued by the president in (see part A above) to curb the spread of coronavirus. On the 24 March 2020, the President, Salva Kiir ordered imposition of a night-time curfew from 8 pm to 6 am starting from 25 March 2020 until further notice. On 7 May 2020, a cabinet meeting chaired by the President announced the easing of the previous curfew from 10 pm to 6 am and also allowed public transports including regional flights to resume their activities with full protective measures within the non-curfew hours. There were therefore questions regarding the reasonability of the decision of the cabinet easing restrictions of movements as the country was still experiencing an increase in COVID-19.
- Freedom of expression/ access to information/ privacy/digital rights
Regarding access to information, the government of South Sudan through the Ministry of Health website provided information on the daily update, weekly situation reports and the Country’s operational plan. The government also provided a toll-free line (6666) for people to call and report any incidents relating to COVID-19. Also, the Ministry of Health worked in close collaboration with WHO and UNICEF in sensitising the people about COVID-19. Some of the methods used include:
1. House-to-house and megaphone announcements.Printing and distribution of key messages on COVID-19,
2. Airing radio jingles with COVID-19 prevention messages on 40 radio stations in 10 languages, and
3. Training over 100 editors and freelance journalists to enhance skills on reporting on health issues, with a focus on COVID-19, ethical reporting, gender-based violence (GBV), fact-checking, social media and safety of journalists.
4. The country also put in place a mechanism to track and dispel fake news and rumours and address community perceptions on COVID-19.
The High-Level Task Force took up the responsibility to assist South Sudanese citizens who were stranded at Jomo Kenyatta international airport and government officials who were trained at Kenya Wildlife and Tourism Institute. Their 14-day quarantine cost in Nairobi was borne by the High-Level Task Force.