Dear Prime Minister,
GOVERNMENTâ€™S HANDLING OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC
You will no doubt be taken aback by the format of the current correspondence to you considering the number of times and occasions on which I have penned confidential letters to you on a number of topics and in confidence, we would subsequently meet to distil those matters.
I have opted to write an open letter to you, Excellency, due to my utter shock and disbelief-a few more descriptives and adjectives would still be appropriate, at the manner you have captained the sinking covid-19 ship- one would conclude that you are quiet oblivious of the stark reality. But in case you are aware of the reality, you have maintained an impervious indifference.
The Government you head took a deliberate decision to allow over one hundred thousand Basotho to cross into the Kingdom without Covid-19 tests-a matter you could have easily addressed by deploying Health Officials and LDF personnel at all Land Ports of Entry (Border Posts) to administer the rapid Covid-19 test- a slight delay to their schedule but an indispensable necessity, one that would have been reflective of a caring Government. That number of people, who rightly had to return home, went straight to the villages where they met loved ones. But the strange thing is that even on that day when the whole world watched that calamity of a comic return home in disbelief, Your Excellency, did not ponder a plan for their return to South Africa. You failed to issue a warning for their integration into the villages and how they could protect themselves and their loved ones. I do not even want to ask HOW Local authorities were engaged to monitor that unfortunate situation and the state of readiness to prepare our people for their return to work in South Africa.
South Africa has opened its doors wide open for our people-this is common cause. But the rate of infection in that country imposes a heavy responsibility to intensify protective measures for their people and hence their alertness at the various Ports of Entry and surely we canâ€™t fault them for that, especially when they watched the manner we treated our returning residents just before Christmas. Today our people spent days at the border just to access a covid-19 clearance before they cross. Our Ministers are shell-shocked at the humanitarian crisis at the Border Posts. What did they expect? But more poignantly what did you expect Prime Minister after the manner you allowed our people to enter the Country for their well-deserved Xmas recess without testing?
Your Excellency, It is now an indisputable fact that Medical Doctors and Scientists all over the world are in agreement if anything that COVID 19 is a communicable respiratory disease, consequently Prime Minister it should never have been a knotty affair to understand as even a laymen does, that OXYGEN is intrinsic and inextricably bound up with RESPIRATION; it therefore boggles one mind that our people are dying because of lack of oxygen in our Health facilities.
Can you, Excellency, with a clear conscience watch this debilitating situation and go to sleep peacefully at night, wake up in the morning and go about your daily routine as if nothing has happened, as Prime Minister? Can you, Excellency, proudly bequeath such a legacy to posterity
Prime Minister, Basotho are dying-maybe you canâ€™t prevent that but what measures have you put in place to ensure that simple procedure like oxygen is not hard to access? We see the rising numbers around the urban areas where communication is fast through social media. What about the men and women in the villages on whose behalf you occupy that hallowed seat? Do you even know whatâ€™s happening in such places?
The way forward
Your Excellency, please ponder the following important points and share your thoughts with the nation, but even then choose the right time to communicate with the nation, midnight can never be an appropriate time to address the nation on such an important matters.
When the Command Centre was dissolved because it was not functioning optimally, the expectation was that NACOSECC would not only work like a well-oiled machine but that Government Ministers would display team-work in their approach to the pandemic. Sadly this is not the case.
We are aware Excellency, that there is a legislative provision to guide cleaning, fumigating and disinfection of all public places. This is â€œLegal notice No 135 of 15 December,2020â€, Which reads in part (particularly where it addresses the above mentioned issue.)
â€œCleaning and Disinfection of Public places and places of Business
(1) For purposes of this section, â€œpublic placeâ€ meansan area which is accessible to members of the public.
(2) The Government shall ensure that public places are cleaned and disinfected based on risk assessment of each workplace in accordance withSchedule II
(3) An owner or manager of an entity, enterpriseor business, shall clean and disinfect his place of Business on a daily basis through electrostatic spraying using non-toxic, non-irritantand scientifically proven disinfectants as may be determined by the Minister.
(4) Fumigation, fogging, sanitization tunnels, sanitization booths and high pressure hose spraying of disinfectants is prohibited for use as they are not effective disinfectants.
(5) A head of an institution which provides a religious service shall screen and maintain a register of attendees upon entry into each service and shall ensure that the place where the religious gathering is held is cleaned or disinfected after every service in accordance with Schedule IIâ€
To date there is no indication that Government intends to enforce the same legal provision as stated above, not even to ensure that all public places comply with it. It is a double tragedy, the government is not honouring its undertaking to clean and disinfect the public places especially under its jurisdiction and it is doing nothing to ensure that those who should clean and disinfect their enterprises or businesses do so at all times. The Government has thus far responded in a half-hearted and reactive manner in very sporadic events
We now invite Your Excellency, to ponder the following;
Access to Oxygen: As a matter of urgency please expedite the availability and access to oxygen in all health facilities, availability of Oxygen is sacred in this fight.
Alternative oxygen expeditiously and prudently explore the possibilities of oxygen concentrators.
Ventilators:We are made to believe that friends of Lesotho and other benevolent people have donated machines and other important health supplies like ventilators and PPE but they have not been distributed to health facilities and health professionals. Publishing the total amount of inventory and the total amount of monetary intervention and the expenditure thereof, will quell the suspicions and improve the confidence of front line workers.
Vaccine Preparedness: Please shed light to the nation about the Governmentâ€™s preparedness to distribute the vaccine, to educate and to sensitize the public.
Vaccine Budget: Can you take the nation into your confidence on the amount proposed for vaccine purchase and ensure that the nation attains population immunity! In other jurisdiction (2/3) two thirds inoculation of the population is recommended as a ratio that would guarantee that the nation would be out of the woods or population immunity; what is the ratio that you wish to attain? We are told that GAVI will provide 20% immunization, what plans and resources will you put in place to bridge the gap between the GAVI intervention and your target ratio. Prime Minister if you have the above figured out, what are you waiting for, please roll out the vaccination programme.
Leadership involvement: Can you share your plan with the nation on HOW you plan to engage the national leadership-starting from Village Health Workers, Local Chiefs, Councillors including Faith-based leadership!
I am sure you will understand my pain at the nature of Governmentâ€™s response and the need to openly distil all these matters with you. You cannot, with a clear conscience allow history to judge you harshly while you can change course and steer the ship to a destination that can give us the confidence that you are doing your best to salvage your own image and the image of the public office you hold.
MOTHETJOA METSING, MP
Leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD)