Martin Griffiths, the top humanitarian chief at the United Nations, said he tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday as he was visiting the U.N. headquarters in New York from a recent trip to Afghanistan, Russia and Ukraine.
Mr. Griffiths met on Monday with the U.N.’s secretary general, António Guterres, but everyone in the room was wearing masks and social distancing was observed, according to Stéphane Dujarric, the secretary general’s spokesman.
Mr. Dujarric said all meetings with Mr. Guterres, who is 72, follow strict masking and distancing protocols, and members of his staff are routinely tested. However, the U.N. headquarters no longer enforces masking and testing to enter the building, Mr. Dujarric said.
Mr. Griffiths appeared unmasked at a briefing with reporters on Monday and several reporters in attendance were also not masked. Journalists at the U.N.’s daily briefings are often asked to take off their masks when asking questions, a request that can potentially expose them to the virus if anyone in the room happens to have the virus but is asymptomatic.
“I am following health guidance, cancelled travel, and isolating at home,” tweeted Mr. Griffiths. “I’m grateful to have had my vaccines already, an opportunity too many around the world have not had.”
Mr. Griffiths was planning to travel to Turkey and to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss how the U.N. can support Turkey’s mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine for a peace deal.
The U.N. tried and failed to negotiate a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine, a temporary halt in fighting that would have allowed the evacuation of civilians from conflict areas and secure safe passage for aid convoys, Mr. Griffiths said. He said Russia had not responded to his proposals for either a humanitarian cease-fire or improvement on access for aid workers.
The World Health Organization warned in early March that the war in Ukraine would increase the transmission of the coronavirus and the number of people at risk of severe disease because of mass displacement and strain on health care facilities.