UNITED NATIONS, March 11 (Xinhua) -- In face of the coronavirus crisis, the UN headquarters in New York has implemented a "pretty robust business continuity plan," increasing cleaning staff, curtailing or cancelling meetings and drastically decreasing the work force through telecommuting, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.
"There is a pretty robust business continuity plan in place," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "For instance, in our office almost half the staff is working from home. We have the capacity to do press briefings from my living room, remotely."
"We had aimed at a 40-50 percent reduction in the footprint," Dujarric said, referring to world headquarters as a whole. "It will take a couple of days to get the figures of where we are."
"We have noticeably increased the overnight staff to clean all public surfaces, elevators, escalators, doors," he said. "More staff has been hired. They have upgraded the disinfecting fluid to what is being referred to as hospital grade in order to keep this building clean. There are a number of hand sanitizing stations that have been added."
The spokesman told correspondents during a regular briefing that he was unaware of any COVID-19 cases reported among workers in the complex.
He did, however, confirm a teacher at the UN International School, some distance from the HQ complex, had contracted the disease. The school will remain closed for an undetermined time after spring break.
His remarks came almost simultaneously with word from Geneva where the World Health Organization had characterized the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.
Many meetings -- but not all -- in the cavernous General Assembly Hall and in the conference rooms in the noticeably quieter complex already have been postponed indefinitely, curtailed and even cancelled, Dujarric said.
The roughly seven-hectare complex along Manhattan's East River was closed to the general public Tuesday and tours suspended indefinitely.
The spokesman said similar actions, but specific to their operations, have been enacted at other UN headquarter sites such as Geneva and Vienna.
Humanitarian agencies of the world organization also are assessing their operations and how the agencies are being disrupted, to try to find solutions as quickly as possible, he said. "To date the UN and all of our humanitarian partners are maintaining humanitarian operations while taking the utmost precautions to ensure staff safety."