Ntsebeng Motsoeli | Limpho Sello
THREE more Coronavirus (Covid-19) related deaths were recorded yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths so far in the country to 51.
The number of infections also rose by 148 cases in just 24 hours to 2725 on Wednesday from 2577 on Tuesday.
This according to the latest Covid-19 figures released yesterday by the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC).
All in all, 31 256 tests have been conducted in a country of 2, 1 million people.
It is highly likely that the new infections have been fuelled by the relaxation of border controls between Lesotho and South Africa.
South Africa is fast inching towards the one million mark for infections with 940 212 cases recorded as of yesterday.
Lesotho’s new infections could also be due to the re-opening of entertainment facilities such as night clubs and public bars.
Concerned by the spike in infections, Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo last week said although they would not be closing down entertainment venues, the government will begin testing revellers before they are allowed entry into festivals and other entertainment events.
Mr Maqelepo said they would use the rapid test kits which give results in 10 minutes.
“Although they are not 100 percent accurate, the rapid test results will show us where there is a risk of infections. When we identify the risk, we will isolate the suspects and refer them for a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test which is 100 percent accurate,” Ms Maqelepo said.
He said the testing expenses will be incurred by the government meaning that those tested will not have to pay anything.
“We have enough testing consumables and they should last until March 2021. But should the need arise to re-stock due to the influx of people during the festive season, we will easily be able to do so because we have already set aside a budget for such a contingency,” he said without stating how much had been set aside.
He also appealed to the nation to continue observing public health protocols including washing hands with soap, using approved sanitisers, wearing masks at all times in public and social distancing as part of efforts to contain the spread of the disease.
Meanwhile, reports from Quthing indicate that more than 5000 people entered the country through undesignated points of entry in the Tele area on Tuesday alone.
The use of illegal entry points comes despite the recent government announcement that all Lesotho nationals returning home should use the official border gates and they will not be penalised even if they have overstayed in South Africa.
The waiver of penalties is meant to ensure that those coming in through official entry points are screened and tested for Covid-19 to prevent the importation and spread of the virus in the country.
Quthing district administrator, Motete Mokonyane, yesterday told the Lesotho Times that the district was burdened with the huge influx of Basotho returning from South Africa through its porous border.
He said this had led the Quthing District Covid-19 secretariat to deploy more staffers as well as increase screening and testing points near the Tele River.
The thousands of Basotho crossing illegally are therefore being tested without being arrested for using illegal entry point to return to the country.
“We have porous entry points that people are using right now although the influx is greater at the Tele River. On Tuesday alone, about 5000 people crossed into country through the Tele River where they were screened by health ministry personnel.
“I have been in contact with the NACOSEC national secretariat and they have promised to send three more vehicles to help our police officers, health personnel at the screening points.
“We have been talking about the porous border at Quthing for a long time and Tele is one of the famous routes which Basotho from all districts use to return home.
“It was a wise move to establish screening centres at the Tele River because given the rate at which people cross at this illegal route, there were going to be more infections if people were allowed to go to their various destinations without being tested,” Mr Mokonyane said.
Contacted for comment on their state of preparedness to deal with the virus this festive season, NACOSEC Risk Communications Manager Baroane Phenethi yesterday said they had distributed various resources to the districts to deal with the threats posed by the disease.
“Personnel and vehicles have been sent out to the districts and they are providing assistance in places like Quthing which have reported an influx of Basotho illegally entering the country through the Tele River,” Mr Phenethi said.
He added that NACOSEC personnel had started working shifts to provide services 24 hours a day.