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News in Brief 13 January 2023

News in Brief 13 January 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

WHO COVID-19 guidance reduces isolation time further

COVID-19 isolation advice has been updated by the UN health agency, WHO, reducing from 13 to 10 the number of days that people with coronavirus symptoms should stay out of circulation, to avoid transmitting the virus.

For people with no symptoms, the World Health Organization suggested that they could now isolate for five days, rather than 10.

WHO’s Clinical management lead for COVID-19 response, Dr Janet Diaz, urged governments and employers to support people infected with the coronavirus in isolation, in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

Dr Diaz also said that a rapid antigen test could also be used to reduce the length of time in isolation by up to three days.

WHO’s guidance also updates a previous strong recommendation supporting the use of the therapeutic drug, nirmatrelvir-ritonavir in high-risk patients; the UN agency says that the medicine “is now an option” for use among pregnant and breastfeeding women.

This updated guidance is based on data indicating that no serious adverse effects were observed for mother or child, when the mother took this medicine.

Greece: Appeal over human rights defenders’ trial, for helping migrants

An appeal now from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, to the Greek Government to dismiss the trial of 24 NGO activists and volunteers who rescued migrants in distress at sea.

The trial began on Tuesday on the Greek island of Lesvos and OHCHR warned of the “chilling effect” that it has already had on other rights defenders, who’ve now halted their work in Greece and other European Union countries.

Similar trials have already taken place in a number of other EU countries including Hungary, Italy and Malta.

Those facing trial in Greece were all associated with Emergency Response Centre International, or ERCI; the group helped more than 1,000 people to reach safety and provided survivors with medical and other assistance on Lesvos from 2016 to 2018, OHCHR said.

With more, here’s UN rights office spokesperson, Liz Throssell:

“I think it’s absolutely clear, that you have people who are in distress at sea, people who are on boats that may have capsized, or may have sunk; they are in the water and there is nobody to rescue them. So that is why we are saying that this trial and trials like it are really concerning because they criminalise actions that save people’s lives.”

The UN rights office spokesperson said that there are no civil society rescue teams operating in Greek waters, despite the fact that 492 migrants have either died or gone missing off the country’s coastline, since 2021.

Indonesia: President’s apology for past rights violations welcomed

Staying with the UN rights office, OHCHR, which has welcomed the Indonesian President’s statement of regret for serious rights violations dating back to the 1960s.

The development came after President Joko Widodo earlier this week acknowledged and expressed regret for a dozen past incidents, which included the anti-Communist crackdown from 1965 to 1966 and the shooting of protesters from 1982 to 1985.

An estimated half a million people were killed in the 1960s and scores of protesters died in the 1980s, according to the UN rights office, which said on Friday that the President’s gesture was “a step on the long road to justice for victims and their loved ones”.

OHCHR also urged the authorities to take “tangible steps” towards justice which guaranteed “truth, justice and reparations to victims and affected communities, including victims of conflict-related sexual violence”.

“A comprehensive transitional justice process will help to break the decades-long cycle of impunity, advance national healing, and strengthen Indonesia’s democracy,” OHCHR maintained.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.


  • Greece urged to halt trial against human rights defenders who helped migrants
  • WHO updates COVID isolation guidance
  • Indonesia: President’s apology for past rights violations welcomed: OHCHR
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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