PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane on Tuesday ignored the recommendations of the National Command Centre (NECC) to extend the lockdown by another 14 days to enable Lesotho to equip its health facilities to respond to an outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Mr Thabane announced on Tuesday that the lockdown which had been in place from 30 March to 5 May 2020 had been lifted to prevent a total collapse of the economy as most businesses had been shut down during the lockdown.
The Lesotho Times has established that the lockdown was lifted despite recommendations for its extension by the NECC- an inter-ministerial committee set up by the government to coordinate the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A document prepared by the NECC early this week and seen by this publication reveals that the inter-ministerial committee wanted an extension because the country was ill-prepared to respond to a Covid-19 outbreak. The committee is also frustrated by its lack of because it does not have the decisions-making powers in especially to direct resources (personnel, health materials and financial resources.*
*The National Response on COVID-19 continues to be uncoordinated. The focus and authority of Government is needed.
In its document, the NECC notes that the country’s health facilities were ill-equipped to handle Covid-19 cases. It cites the Berea and Mafeteng hospitals as some of the major health facilities still in need of human and material resources to fight the pandemic.
The NECC said these and other institutions needed more doctors and nurses. The hospitals also need equipment like beds, patient monitors and oxygen ventilators.
“The NECC recommends an extension of nationwide lockdown… by 14 days from 6 May to 19 May 2020,” the NECC says in the document.
“The isolation centres are not yet ready for case management. Mafeteng Hospital is not ready. Berea hospital is not ready. The capacity of quarantine facilities is yet to be tested as Basotho in South Africa may return to Lesotho. Their (quarantine facilities’) total capacity is 148 people versus the likely number of 13 000 Basotho who may return to Lesotho.”
The NECC notes that Lesotho nationals who are taking advantage of porous borders to illegally cross back into the country from South Africa pose the greatest risk of spreading Covid-19 infections since they are not screened and tested.
“The NECC has identified hotspots such as the border areas of Dili Dili, Sixondo and Tlhanyaku; risky population areas such as the main bus-stops; open air markets and health facilities to be fumigated and disinfected.”
The inter-ministerial committee said it would identify hotels in all the country’s 10 districts to be used as quarantine centres.
Tourism, Environment and Culture minister, Joang Molapo, yesterday told the media that the government would also negotiate with owners of guesthouses and other hospitality facilities to lease them to the state for use as quarantine facilities.