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Eight suspected Coronavirus cases hit Lesotho as lockdown begins


Limpho Sello

EIGHT suspected cases of Coronavirus infections have been reported as the country today begins a 21-day national lockdown as part of efforts to curb the spread of the deadly pandemic.

This was revealed yesterday by Health Minister Nkaku Kabi at a press conference in Maseru. The eight are Basotho who recently arrived back in the country from South Africa.

Mr Kabi said four of the eight suspects’ blood samples had already been sent to South Africa for testing while the remaining four would be dispatched this weekend.

He said the two of the four whose blood samples had already been sent to South Africa were currently quarantined in Mafeteng District Hospital, one at Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital and one at Motebang Hospital.

The other four suspects whose blood samples were still to be sent to South Africa were also taken to Mafeteng District Hospital yesterday after they presented symptoms of severe influenza. One of them tried to escape from the hospital, forcing the hospital authorities to call the police for assistance.

Mr Kabi said all the results will be publicly announced once they are received from South Africa.

Mr Kabi appealed to all people who had illegally crossed into Lesotho after the lockdown in South Africa on Thursday to immediately go for screening. He also appealed to family members of illegal returnees to collaborate with government and ensure that their relatives were screened immediately.

Lesotho begins a lockdown today until 21 April 2020 as part of efforts to fight the pandemic.

A government gazette was issued on Friday to give legal force to the lockdown. Mr Kabi said that since the issuing of the gazette, security agencies were now constitutionally obligated to enforce conditions of the lockdown.

“We met with the police and soldiers on Friday evening. They said they are ready to hit the ground running and do their job now that there is legal instrument (gazette) in place.

“This should send stern signals that they are going to do their job (sic). This means we will not expect anyone to think they are being mistreated when the law is being enforced,” Mr Kabi said.

On his part, Communications, Science and Technology Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane, who also chairs the National Emergency Command Centre, said all legal processes to operationalise the lockdown had been completed.

“You will all recall that key among them (measures to curb the spread of the virus) is a decision to reduce all unnecessary and avoidable movement of people, maintenance of social distancing and observance of hygiene protocols that include regular washing of hands with soap and running water among others.

“On Thursday, there were reports that at Tlhanyaku, in Mokhotlong district there were illegal crossings (of people from South Africa) which caused panic among villagers and the National Command Centre deployed the District Administrator, Lesotho Mounted Police Service and the Lesotho Defence Force to address the situation.

“It is imperative to abide (by the rules of the lockdown) as the government will deploy security forces across the country. Let us all remember that it is one’s sole responsibility to keep well and safe from this pandemic,” Chief ‘Maseribane said.

He said government would establish district command centres to disseminate information to communities about the fight against the virus.

He also said that the international community was assisting the Lesotho government’s initiatives to fight the virus.

“For instance, a consignment of 20 089 test kits, 741 personal protection equipment, 100 000 surgical masks and 1111 face shields arrived on Thursday evening from the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation.

“The said consignment has been thoroughly tested and certified by a team of experts to ensure quality before its distribution,” Chief ‘Maseribane said, adding “the exercise is completed, and equipment is due for distribution through the country”.

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