NAIROBI, March 31 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Tuesday said it has suspended training of about 29,000 troops as preventive measures to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Lul Ruai Koang, spokesman for South Sudan People's Defense Forces told Xinhua in Juba that the decision to suspend training of the troops, part of the estimated 83,000 unified force, follows last week's directive by President Salva Kiir banning all public gatherings in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"We have responded to the presidential decree by suspending the training of unified force because it says people should not be overcrowded. Based on that we have suspended the training," said Koang in Juba.

The suspension presents a huge blow to efforts by the recently formed transitional unity government to expedite the formation of the unified force under the 2018 peace deal signed by the government and opposition to end over six years of conflict.

"You know soldiers we train them as a group, so based on this directive we have suspended all training activities," he added.

South Sudan has not yet reported any case of COVID-19, but Juba is stepping up preventive measures after neighboring countries like Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have reported cases of the deadly infectious COVID-19.

President Kiir has ordered the closure of all border crossing points and shut down commercial flights, including imposing stringent measures of public transport and trade.

The youngest nation has already imposed night curfew, with the exception of emergency cases that require health services.

South Sudan is struggling to emerge from six years of conflict since outbreak in December 2013, as it seeks to form unified armed forces to take charge of security during the three-year transitional period.

The spread of COVID-19 in the region has further halted the return of millions of displaced people both internally and externally to their homes.

The situation also poses a serious threat to humanitarian response to thousands in need of food aid amid worsening food insecurity this year due to flooding and poor harvests. Enditem


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