WTO prolongs shutdown, bars staff from premises over virus

Agence France-Presse . Geneva | Published: 22:44, Mar 15,2020


The World Trade Organisation announced on Sunday that it would prolong its meeting shutdown over COVID-19 until the end of April, and said that it had asked most staff to work from home.

The Geneva-based world trade body initially announced last Tuesday that it would suspend all meetings until March 20 after one of its staff members contracted the new coronavirus.

But on Sunday, WTO chief Roberto Azevedo said that measure would be extended.

‘In light of developments related to the COVID-19 virus and after meeting with UN agencies and observers in Geneva, we have taken a decision to suspend all meetings at the WTO until the end of April 2020,’ he said in a statement.

‘This decision will be reviewed as appropriate,’ he added.

In addition, all WTO staff whose physical presence is not required to do their jobs have been asked to work remotely until the end of March, Azevedo said.

The United Nations-affiliated organisation said it was ‘reviewing alternatives for arranging virtual meetings to enable members to participate remotely.’

The news came after the UN ordered all staff at its headquarters in New York and at the European headquarters in Geneva to work from home in coming weeks unless their presences was essential.

WTO’s host-country Switzerland, where more than 2,200 people have been infected and more than a dozen have died, has also announced a raft of measures to halt the spread of coronavirus, including closing schools and tightening border controls.

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