- highly contagious Delta variant among strains fueling surge in infections,
- as govt imposes tighter restrictions including curfew and ban on international travel
PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has imposed a stricter nationwide lockdown amid indications that Lesotho is battling three highly contagious variants of the Covid-19 virus.
These are the South African variant, Delta variant and the United Kingdom mutation of the Lambda variant first identified in Peru last August.
Of these, the Delta variant is the most virulent with reports saying it is responsible for 83 percent of Covid-19 cases in the United States (US).
The US is the world leader in Covid-19 cases with a cumulative 35 283 075 infections and 626 658 deaths having been recorded by yesterday.
India, the country where the Delta variant was first identified, is a close second with a cumulative 31 332 159 infections and 420 043 deaths by yesterday.
All three variants have now been identified in Lesotho, Dr Majoro said.
Speaking on national television to announce a stricter lockdown over the weekend, Dr Majoro said the country’s positivity rate had shot up and more than 300 positive infections were now being recorded per week.
The number of deaths, which had remained constant at an average one mortality per week over the last three months, have shot up to 15 per week in the past few weeks, the premier said.
“Previously, the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) used to report less than 30 positive cases in a week but currently they have increased to close to 300 positive cases in a week,” Dr Majoro said.
“The death toll has also moved from a point where they recorded less than five deaths in a week to a point where they now report more than 15 deaths per week.
“Also, the hospital admissions have increased from five to 20 percent in just a week while the number of patients who need oxygen has increased from 20 patients per month to 300 patients per month.”
Without providing figures, Dr Majoro said Leribe was the hardest hit district with infections spiking in schools and textile factories.
“I should add that there has been an outbreak at the factories in the district of Leribe. I therefore appeal to the people of Leribe to address the dire situation. You should protect yourselves and reduce the risk of getting infected.
“Furthermore, the results from the samples we sent to South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases have revealed that the majority of cases emanate from three variants, namely, the South African variant, Delta variant which originates from India and the United Kingdom mutation of the Lambda variant,” Dr Majoro said.
He said the rising local infections and the strain they imposed on the health delivery system coupled with a full blown third wave of infections in South Africa necessitate stricter restrictions including a ban on international travel except for a few categories that include essential workers, diplomats and people seeking medical attention.
Others who will be allowed to travel are business people, truck drivers, migrant workers and students studying outside the country.
Political gatherings and public demonstrations have been completely banned.
Contact sports like soccer and rugby have been banned.
Only three people instead of the usual four will be allowed in the small taxis popularly known as 4+1s. Buses have also been ordered to reduce the number of passengers to one for every two seats.
Funeral attendance has been restricted to a maximum 100 people and the ceremony should not last more than two hours.
Church services are permitted with only 30 percent of indoor capacity. Services should not last more than two hours and congregants are required to wear face masks at all times even when singing.
Schools and tertiary institutions will be allowed to open but learners should attend on a rotational basis in smaller groups to minimise the risk of mass infections.
School bus drivers must only carry 50 percent of their buses’ capacity of passengers.
Only 50 people will be allowed at wedding ceremonies and these should not go on beyond two hours.
Alcohol and buffet services are strictly prohibited and guests are only allowed pre-packed meals.
Retail supermarkets, clothing shops, cafes and grocery stores are allowed to open from 8am to 6pm daily.
However, night clubs have been completely shut down while liquor shops will only be allowed to operate from Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm.
A daily 9pm to 5am a curfew has also been imposed to limit movement.