500 Basotho quarantined over Covid-19

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Limpho Sello

AT least 500 locals have been quarantined at different facilities across the country over suspicions they have contracted the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19), the Health ministry has said.

This comes as Lesotho’s Covid-19 cases have escalated from just four last month to 35 as of yesterday.

The Ministry of Heath’s Head of Family Health Services, Dr ‘Makhoase Ranyali Otubanjo, said the increase in Covid-19 cases had forced the government to increase the number of its quarantine facilities from just one in Butha-Buthe which had 148 beds to 34.

“We now have 500 suspects quarantined in different facilities,” Dr Ranyali told the Lesotho Times this week.

“Some of the facilities are hotels and guest houses in the various districts. All in all, there are 34 quarantine facilities in the country – eight in Maseru, six each in Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek and four in Berea. There are two each in Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka, Mafeteng and Butha-Buthe. Leribe and Qacha’s Nek have one each.

“At the time Lesotho implemented its preparedness and response plan to fight Covid-19, we had only identified Likileng Lodge in Butha-Buthe as the only quarantine facility. This is because we didn’t anticipate that a large number of Basotho would return to the country from South Africa.

“As soon as we realised that more people were entering the country, we acted fast and increased number of quarantine facilities to accommodate people coming from the highly infected South Africa. All travelers from other countries had to be quarantined.”

Dr Ranyali said they had also quarantined those who had been in contact with the suspected cases.

The influx was experienced from April 2020 as hundreds of Basotho living and working in South Africa illegally crossed back into the country through the porous ports of entry.

South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 infections on the continent.  It had recorded 151 209 infections and 2657 deaths by yesterday evening.

Apart from the 500 suspects in the quarantine facilities, Dr Ranyali said some suspects had been asked to self-isolate in their houses which met the set standards for self-isolation.

In terms of the standards, the families should have a spare room to be used by the suspect during the 14-day self-isolation period. Suspects should also stay at home and avoid moving around and contact with the public throughout the self-isolation period.

She said nurses and security officers regularly checked on the suspects in self-isolation.

She said they had hired psychologists to attend to suspects in the quarantine facilities because they had previously observed that some suspects “struggled to cope and became unruly from missing their homes”.

“Some just panic when they hear that they will be quarantined. Some literally do not understand what quarantine is and because of lack of knowledge, they rebel and demand to go home. They simply do not understand the importance of being quarantined. They don’t know that they pose a threat to their families and the community.”

Dr Ranyali said those infected with the virus were referred to Berea Hospital as it was the only health facility earmarked to admit and care for Covid-19 patients.

Meanwhile, the Health ministry ‘s Director General, Dr Nyane Letsie, said they had budgeted M11 million to cover quarantine expenses from April to June 2020. The expenses include accommodation, meals for suspects and other essentials.

“Government plays M1000 per night for each individual quarantined for 14 days or less. The budget for the quarantine project is approximately M11 million from April to mid-June,” Dr Letsie said. She said a budget for the coming months would only be agreed after they became clear of the numbers of suspects to be put in quarantine facilities.

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