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NRL resumes Covid-19 testing

by Sunday Express
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Limpho Sello

THE National Reference Laboratory (NRL) has resumed testing for Covid-19 after securing testing consumables which will last until Mach next year.

Health minister Motlatsi Maqelepo on Wednesday said that the unavailability of testing consumables in the last one month caused serious inconveniences for the public who were forced to rely on private laboratories that charge M1300 for the test.

In recent weeks, there have been reports of increases in illegal crossings of travelers between Lesotho and South Africa. This as travelers tried to evade the need to test as border authorities are demanding valid Covid-19 clearance certificates that are not older than 72 hours.

The National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) recently conducted a survey which found that many people were using illegal border crossings daily to avoid paying high testing fees when they NRL was not testing.

NACOSEC risk communication manager, Baroane Phenethi, told the Sunday Express on 6 November 2020 that at least 20 people were crossing to and from South Africa daily at each of two undesignated borders in Maseru and Quthing.

Some of the desperate travellers have been risking their lives using inflatable mattresses to cross flooded rivers to and from South Africa with one woman drowning in the Mohokare River in Maputsoe a fortnight ago while attempting to cross on an inflated mattress.

Social media has been awash with videos and photos of people crossing flooded rivers aboard makeshift boats as they evade paying exorbitant test fees.

But Mr Maqelepo on said they have now procured consumables that will last until March next year.

“The stock outs of reagents (testing consumables) in our national laboratory caused huge inconvenience to our health services and immense confusion to our people,” Mr Maqelepo said.

“It is with great pleasure that I announce… that from Monday 9 November, the laboratory services have been back to normal and we have resumed testing.”

He apologised to Basotho and also reassured them that his ministry has embarked onto a sustainable strategy to ensure that a similar situation would never be repeated.

He also appealed to Basotho to desist from putting their lives at risk by crossing to and from South Africa through undesignated borders.

“I appeal to you, especially during this critical time, to stop putting your lives in danger. To all Basotho who are forced by circumstances to go to South Africa, please report to the Ministry of Labour and Employment and register your names so that we can work together and assist you with acquiring Covid-19 clearance certificate for safe return to work.

“We recently tested about 400 migrant workers. So, we ask domestic workers who hold special permits to work in South Africa to go to the Labour ministry and avoid endangering their lives by using illegal crossing routes.”

He urged Basotho to desist from traveling to South Africa except for emergencies as the country was still burdened by Covid-19.

“Those who need to cross for medical check-ups, as long as they have proof… they are free to come to the Ministry of Health now that we have resumed testing,” Mr Maqelepo said.

Business people and learners who wish to travel to South Africa must still get tested at private laboratories.


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