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Lockdown extension looming


Mohloai Mpesi

The National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) boss Dr ‘Malitaba Litaba has mulled an extension of the on-going Alert Level Red Lockdown by an undisclosed number of days.

Addressing the media in Maseru this week, Litaba cited the upsurge in positive cases of the Covid-19 as the main reason the likely extension.

The on-going lockdown was set to 14days running up to January 27, 2021 as announced by the Prime-Minster Dr Moeketsi Majoro last week January 12, 2021.

“I would advise that the lockdown be extended because for as long as some people still continue to move around, the virus will continue to spread, hence the need for stricter movement control measures because there seems to be people who are reluctant to comply, if every person was adhering to the World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations, there would be no need for a lockdown in the first place.

“So there has to be enforcement because we choose not to do what is required. It is as easy to contract this virus as it is to stop it. I heard people angry about the lockdown being imposed, but we are all responsible to the spreading of this virus.

“Some people do not wear their masks, so there is no compliance, hence the numbers of those who test positive keep soaring.

“We are left with less than eight days before the expiration of this lockdown, but if we don’t change our behaviour the numbers will not drop; our target is to reach 10% of positive cases. However, on Monday this week we were on 43% which is worryingly high. In the remaining seven days, if everyone can be cautious and take responsibility, things would be different. According to how we are behaving towards this virus, we are likely to take two months under lockdown,” said Litaba.       

She further indicated that the numbers of people testing positive greatly grew during the Christmas break when scores of Basotho numbering around 123 000 came to Lesotho through the borders with South Africa, not counting those who took advantage of the porous borders to cross illegally into Lesotho.

“We range between 30% and 50% of positivity rate, from November up to days before Christmas we moved from 5% to 12%. After Christmas the numbers increased that’s why we even advised the Prime Minister to impose lockdown because we were ranging 50% to 53%.

“When this pandemic is under control we have to range under 5% which says in every 100 people only five should infected. So it is worse when we range between 30 and 50,” she said.

She continued that although the lockdown impacts the economy of the country and the lives of people, there is a need to strike a balance between the two.

“This battle is in two ways, when you impose lockdown trying to stop rapid infection, the economy of the country gets impacted, and when you try to open lockdown, the infection rate increases,” she added.

As of yesterday, January 21, 2021 Lesotho has carried out a total of 45 531 tests since last winter, where 7 555 were reported positive. Of the positive cases, a total of 1993 recovered while 113 are confirmed to have succumbed to death by covid-19 related complications.

“The deaths of people confirmed Covid-19 is 103 (now 113). Last week, the hospitals reported 93 deaths, unfortunately, only three were confirmed Covid-19 positive, the rest are only suspects because some were admitted in hospitals and died before testing positive.

“According to our testing capacity we can’t release results in 24 hours, we can only run 2000 tests with our National Reference Lab (NRL) when working 24hrs in full capacity.

“In December we had a backlog of 20 000 samples. This emphasises that there will be people dying waiting for results.

“Lesotho is middle-low income country, our economy is weak, the PCR tests are very expensive, purchasing oxygen is also expensive, it takes a lot of money to nurse just one person who is positive. Therefore, prevention is better than cure because we don’t have financial muscle,” she said.

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