PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro has reimposed new stricter rules to fight the increase of Covid 19 infections.
The country is now back in the orange category of restrictions. This means that church services and political rallies are now completely banned. A new curfew will now ban movement between 8pm and 5am except for those in designated essential services.
Cross-border travel has also been banned except for essential services and returning residents. Any other special cases for foreign travel will require special permits.
The measures, announced on Tuesday evening by Dr Majoro, came into effect yesterday morning.
Addressing the nation on national television, Dr Majoro said cabinet had resolved at its Tuesday meeting to impose the new tighter restrictions following a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
According to the latest 4 January 2021 statistics provided by the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC), there are now 3914 Covid-19 infections and 65 deaths in Lesotho.
This represents a huge increase from the 3206 infections recorded three days earlier on 1 January 2021.
“During the Christmas and new year festivities, we have witnessed increasing infections and deaths at an alarming rate,” Dr Majoro said.
“We have therefore passed Covid-19 risk mitigation restrictions which will move the country from the recently announced purple stage to the orange one with effect from midnight (Tuesday).
“I assure you that we have taken all measures to lower the infection and death rates while managing those that are infected and those who are in need of medical attention.”
Dr Majoro reintroduced a curfew restricting movement from 8pm until 5am.
Schools have been closed as have sports, concerts and other forms of public entertainment. Church services have also been banned meaning that Christians will have to make do with televised or virtual services from the comfort of their own homes.
Political rallies remain banned while other public gatherings are now limited to not more than 30 people (from 50) on condition that they last a maximum of two hours only.
Weddings have now been restricted to just five people including the bride and the groom while funerals have been restricted to family members and other 10 people.
Dr Majoro also said that inter-district travel has been limited. He however, did not say under what circumstances people will be allowed to travel across the country’s 10 districts.
Prisoners will no longer be able to receive visits from their families and friends. Only health workers, lawyers representing inmates and oversight bodies will be allowed to continue visiting prisons under the new regulations.
Although he did not say what time shops are expected to close, it will have to be before the 8pm curfew time to allow workers to be home by then.
Dr Majoro said the nation is expected to observe all public health regulations at all times. These include wearing face masks in public places, washing hands with approved sanitisers and maintaining social distance of at least a metre from each other.
The new stringent regulations came barely three days after the government had announced that the country was now in the purple stage where sporting events were only allowed without any spectators and public gatherings limited to just 50 people. Indoor entertainment events were only allowed with the express approval of NACOSEC or the ministry of tourism.
The new restrictions also come at a time when Covid-19 infections are soaring all over the world. Many countries including neighbouring South Africa have been hit by a new variant of Covid 19 which is said to be more infectious than the first which originally broke out in January 2019.
South Africa has been cited as a key source of the new variant. Countries like the UK have since banned all travel between them and South Africa.
South Africa has now breached the one million mark with 1 127 759 infections and 30 524 deaths as of yesterday. It has the highest number of infections in Africa and is 16th in the world.
The alarming increase in infections locally and in South Africa made the government’s fresh restrictions inevitable.
Last week, Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo warned that a fresh Covid-19 disaster was looming in the country with an alarming increase in infections.
Mr Maqelepo said he would advise Prime Minister Majoro to impose another strict lockdown.
“Many countries are already experiencing the second wave and it looks like we are fast moving towards that.
“As per my responsibility and that of health officials, we will advise the prime minister to impose restrictions if he so wishes. The Covid-19 situation is getting worse and we are going to advise him to impose some restrictions,” Mr Maqelepo said. (See story on Page 8).