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Vodacom supports govt in COVID-19 fight

Bataung Moeketsi

TELECOMMUNICATIONS giant Vodacom Lesotho on Friday pledged 1000 mobile phones to be used by Ministry of Health staff across the country to fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The pledge was made by Vodacom Lesotho managing director Philip Amoateng at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru.

Mr Amoateng made the pledge to the chairperson of the Cabinet Sub Committee of the National Emergency Command Centre (NECC), Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane.

Mr Amoateng said their support for the NECC would come in three thematic areas namely education, digital financial services and health.

“These are the times we have to come together as individuals, corporate entities and the government to find solutions and work together to fight the common enemy,” Mr Amoateng said.

“We pledge to use our technological infrastructure to do anything within our power to fight this pandemic.”

He said the support they were offering would benefit both the government and the general public.

For a period of three months, Vodacom will zero-rate all educational platforms from primary schools up to university level ensuring that students continue with their studies.

Additionally, all MPESA transactions under M100 and purchases at supermarkets under M50 have been zero-rated. Vodacom customers can now also purchase airtime using MPESA at no extra cost.

The 1000 mobile phones are meant to ease the communication among health workers while approximately 6000 nurses will receive 120 calling minutes and five gigabytes of data monthly.

Mr Amoateng said Vodacom was also working coming up with a facility where its subscribers can fill in a questionnaire to determine whether or not they should visit a hospital judging by their symptoms.

The company is also working on a chat-bot (chat robot) that will interface with the ministry’s database and will answer questions users may have concerning COVID-19.

Mr Amoateng said they have also offered the Ministry of Health a four-seater toll-free call centre where customers can ask for information on the virus.

He urged Basotho to adhere to the government’s regulations “to ensure that at the end, we come out of this pandemic than before”.

For his part, Chief ‘Maseribane expressed gratitude to Vodacom for its quick response to the request made during recent meetings between his ministry and the country’s two telecommunications companies.

“It (Vodacom’s response) didn’t take much time and I know it is going to affect your balance sheet but it’s not time to make money; it’s time to contribute towards supporting the country in the fight against COVID-19.

“I am aware that there is a gap in the COVID-19 communications. Basotho need more education regarding measures of COVID-19 prevention and to understand that we are not even at level one (on the infections scale),” Chief Maseribane said.

There are five Coronavirus levels with the fifth involving drastic measures and to date, Lesotho is yet to record any cases.

Chief ‘Maseribane commended the government for declaring a lockdown although the country does not have any cases but said it was important for the country to prepare for eventualities.

NECC deputy chief coordinator Thabo Ntoi told the Sunday Express on the sidelines of the press conference that the centre that the centre was tasked with the responsibility of supporting the sub-committee. He said the NECC coordinates measures to ensure Basotho’s protection from infection with virus and also that resources, facilities and equipment are available to carry out the task.

Mr Ntoi said the centre’s logistics team, headed by the Ministry of Health, is responsible for the reception and distribution of all donations.

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