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Covid-19 fears as learners resume studies in virus-hit SA

Limpho Sello

A TOTAL of 150 Basotho students have resumed their studies in schools in neighbouring South Africa amid fears that they now face an increased risk of contracting the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) as some of them commute daily to and from the virus hit country.

South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Africa. By yesterday, it had recorded a total of 61 927 infections and 1354 deaths. The Free State province, where most of the Lesotho learners attend school, had recorded 435 cases by yesterday. Other provinces which share borders with Lesotho, namely the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had recorded 8615 and 3573 cases respectively by yesterday.

Although no infections among learners have been reported so far in the three provinces bordering Lesotho, 39 learners and teachers from the Gauteng province were this week reported as having contracted the virus.

There are fears that some of Lesotho’s learners, who are daily scholars and commute daily to and from the neighbouring country, mainly to Ladybrand, could contract the virus.
Abeloang Ramakhula, the senior Information officer at Lesotho’s National Emergency Command Centre (NECC), said South Africa was a high-risk country and authorities in both countries were doing everything in their power to ensure all the precautions including the regular screening of the learners were in place.

Mr Ramakhula said officials at the Maseru Bridge border had assured the NECC that they would be working closely with their South African counterparts to screen all learners and ensure their wellbeing.

“These students will be screened at the South African border and will be screened again on the Lesotho side when they return from their schools,” Mr Ramakhula said.
“A surveillance form will also be filled as part of control measures against Covid-19. Taxi operators in Lesotho and South Africa are also holding talks on the safe transportation of learners to eliminate or reduce chances of contracting Covid-19,” he said.

South African High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto, this week told the Sunday Express that the 150 Basotho learners would be screened daily for Covid-19 when they commute between the two countries.

Those presenting with Covid-19 symptoms will be quarantined and tested, Mr Moloto said.

He said the South African government decided to open schools after concluding that all the schools had taken the necessary precautions to deal with Covid-19 and were now fully prepared to welcome back learners into the classrooms.

“Schools were supposed to open last week (1 June) but the government realised that only 80 percent of the schools were ready so we postponed to Monday 8 June to allow all the schools that were left behind on their Covid-19 preparedness plan to catch up,” Mr Moloto said.

“The understanding is that this week all the schools will be ready to welcome learners. At the ports of entry, the port health officers are expected to screen learners every day to limit the risk of infection in both countries (Lesotho and South Africa),” said Mr Moloto.

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