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Crisis as Covid-19 paralyses courts, schools

 

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE High Court has suspended most of its operations until Friday. This after an undisclosed number of court officials contracted Covid-19 last week.

The move follows hot on the heels of the recent closure of schools due to the rising Covid-19 infections at the places of learning and in the country in general.

A fortnight ago, the government reimposed a ban on political rallies and imposed a 10pm to 4am curfew among a host of restrictions to contain the rising tide of Covid-19 infections.

Announcing the decision to suspend High Court services over the weekend, High Court and Court of Appeal Registrar, ‘Mathato Sekoai, said, “members of staff are hereby informed that due to reported cases of Covid-19 among our colleagues, the High Court will be closed for business except for extremely urgent cases and bail applications.

“We are all urged to take precautionary measures and stay at home to minimise the spread of the virus and report back to work on 19 July 2021.

“The High Court shall operate as follows: bail applications shall only be heard on Monday. For all urgent matters, a judge on call shall be available to hear such cases. Whenever there is an urgent application to be moved, the office of the registrar shall be contacted on the following numbers; 57527071, 58954218, 59441301 and 58788711,” Adv Sekoai said in her 9 July 2021 circular to all court staff. The circular is titled: “Suspension of services of the High Court”.

A day before Adv Sekoai’s circular, Judge Charles Hungwe who is presiding over former army commander Tlali Kamoli and nine others’ trial for the June 2015 murder of army commander Maaparankoe Mahao, had announced that the court had resolved to bar the public from attending its proceedings.

“I have been advised that only a certain group of people should be allowed in the courtroom. These are lawyers involved in the matter, litigants or the accused, court staff on duty and not more than four members of the media. The rest of you are advised to stay at home for your safety,” Justice Hungwe said.

This is not the first time that the High Court has suspended its operations.  Services were first suspended from 27 March to 21 April 2020. They were again suspended from 20 to 26 July 2020. This after the death of Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane who succumbed to the disease.

Services were again suspended from 14 to 27 January 2021 when Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro ordered nationwide lockdown.

The latest suspension of court services come barely two weeks after the government closed schools due to rising Covid-19 infections in learning institutions.

Announcing the decision on national television, Education and Training Minister ‘Mamookho Phiri, said, “the ministry of education has resolved to close schools from 26 June to 1 August 2021 due to the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections.

“The education sector is very much challenged by the impact of Covid-19. We therefore strongly appeal to teachers and learners to stay at home while parents are also expected to keep their children at home.”

The closure of the schools follows a recent surge in infections particularly in Leribe where six schools and 20 villages registered a total of 114 infections late last month.

National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) CEO ‘Malitaba Litaba said the hardest hit was Khethisa High School where 77 learners tested positive to the virus.

Dr Litaba said the Khethisa school infections were first detected on 8 June 2021. They were detected after one of the grade 10 learners at the boarding school had presented symptoms of Covid-19.

After the learner’s tests at a local clinic returned a positive result, other learners who had been in contact with the pupil were traced and tested resulting in a total of 77 positive cases from the school.

The Lesotho College of Education also indefinitely closed its Maseru campus after some students tested positive to the virus late last month. Although the college would not give figures, some college sources said 10 students had tested positive.

By yesterday, Lesotho had recorded 11 903 cumulative infections and 335 deaths. There are fears that Lesotho could be having the more virulent delta variant of the disease.

First discovered in India where it has spread with deadly consequences, the delta variant has also been detected in neighbouring South Africa where it is said to be driving the third wave of infections.

 

 

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