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Coronavirus hits closer home

by Sunday Express
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  • as Botswana reports first suspected case

Limpho Sello

TRAVELLERS from countries affected by the Coronavirus will be quarantined for at least 14 days by Health ministry officials upon arrival in Lesotho as part of measures to contain the deadly virus which has been reported in eight countries including China and Australia.

The announcement of the measures come against the background of reports that nearby Botswana had its first suspected case of the disease on Friday. A statement released yesterday by that country’s Ministry of Health and Wellness indicates that the suspected number of Coronavirus had increased to five.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. One week later, on 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a novel coronavirus (nCoV)– a new strain that had not been previously identified in human beings.  At least 213 people in the China have died from the virus.

Lesotho’s Health ministry said in a recent statement that symptoms of the virus include a running nose, headaches, coughing, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and a general feeling of being unwell.

The ministry said the the virus can be particularly dangerous to the elderly and infants as it may affect the respiratory tract.

“For the elderly and very young and those with a weakened immune system, the virus can cause more severe lower respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis,” the Health ministry said.

Since the discovery of the new virus in China, that country’s health authorities said there were 7711 confirmed cases as of 29 January 2020. Infections have also spread to at least 15 other countries with Botswana reporting its first suspected case on Friday.


In a recent interview with the Sunday Express, the Senior Health Inspector in the Port Health Programme, Ephraim Lekoeneha, said following the outbreak the country has now put in place the strong surveillance measures at the ports of entry especially the Moshoeshoe I International Airport to screen incoming and outgoing travellers.

Mr Lekoeneha said all the travellers coming in from the affected countries will have to be quarantined for at least 14 days for the health officials to run full test s to ascertain whether or not they have the virus.

“It is very crucial to ensure that we strengthen our surveillance,” Mr Lekoeneha said, adding there was currently no vaccine or treatment for the virus.

“Wash hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Practice cough etiquette by covering the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing.

“Avoid close contact with people who are sick and may have travelled to the affected areas. If you are mildly sick, consult the nearest health facility then keep yourself hydrated, stay at home and rest. Severe disease may require referral to the next level of care and hospitalisation for further management.”

WHO has since declared the virus a global health emergency. WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, named Germany, Vietnam and Japan, as places where people had caught the virus from others who had visited China.

“Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak,” Ghebreyesus said, adding that human-to-human transmission was a concern.

Meanwhile, Botswana registered its first suspected case of the coronavirus on Thursday, according to the country’s Ministry of Health and Wellness.

The case was registered at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in the capital, Gaborone.

A passenger travelling from China had arrived at the airport on an Ethiopian Airways flight.

“The suspected case is still being investigated,” the ministry said.

It advised travellers to take precautions, such as practising good hygiene, getting medical help should they experience symptoms of the virus, and making sure they were screened at points of entry for early diagnoses.

But another statement released yesterday indicated that the suspected cases in Botswana had risen to five.

“The ministry confirms five suspected cases of Coronavirus presenting with flu-like symptoms since 30 January 2020. All the five suspected cases arrived at the Sir Seretse Khama Airport.

“The five cases were picked at different times and are isolated at a designated health facility whilst awaiting laboratory results…We wish to emphasise that these are suspected cases…,” the ministry said in its latest statement.


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