THE National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) is intensifying testing and contact tracing for Covid-19 as part of an ambitious 11-day programme to curb the spread of the deadly pandemic in the country.
NACOSEC has also earmarked some hospitals and facilities, including an army base and the Makoanyane Military Hospital, as treatment and isolation facilities for Covid-19 patients.
An additional 400 health professionals have been recruited to boost the human resources capacity to fight the pandemic.
The 11-day campaign, outlined by NACOSEC Risk Communications Manager Baroane Phenethi to the Lesotho Times, comes against the background of soaring Covid-19 infections which stood at a cumulative 7035 infections and 102 deaths as of yesterday.
This represents a worrying increase from 6 371 Covid-19 infections and 93 deaths recorded at the weekend.
Only 1652 patients have fully recovered since the first positive case was recorded on 13 May 2020 while the rest have either died or are still battling the disease.
Matters have not been helped by the government’s decision to allow tens of thousands of Basotho, who live and work in South Africa, back into the country for the just-ended festive season without testing or presenting valid Covid-19 certificates at the various ports of entry.
This could have contributed to the exponential increase in infections which has since prompted Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro to reimpose a national lockdown closing all ports of entry, banning international travel and restricting inter-district travel except for essential services and other exceptional circumstances.
The lockdown is from 14 to 27 January 2021.
In addition, NACOSEC, which was established by Dr Majoro last June to coordinate the fight against Covid-19, says it has intensified contact tracing and testing as part of the fight against the pandemic.
“The 11-day programme started on 15 January 2021 and is expected to be completed by 25 January 2021,” Mr Phenethi told the Lesotho Times this week.
“The programme involves tracing of contacts of Covid-19 patients and testing them. It is being piloted in four districts, namely, Maseru, Leribe, Berea and Mafeteng. These are the districts with the highest incidences of Covid-19.
“We will be guided in our work by the pillars of surveillance; contact tracing; laboratory testing; case management; infection, prevention and control (IPC) and risk communications.
“What this means is that our surveillance and contact tracing will intensify during this period. Testing is going to increase because we are currently on the ground tracing contacts of all positive cases,” Mr Phenethi said.
He said at the end of the campaign, they would compile a report of their findings which would be made public. He said the report will give a more accurate picture of the Covid-19 situation in the country.
He said they were working to increase the number of treatment centres and isolation facilities for Covid-19 patients to arrest the rising tide of infections and deaths.
Some of the facilities that have been earmarked to serve as treatment centres and isolation facilities, he said, include the 45-bed Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) base at Sehlabeng Sa Thuathe as well as the 50-bed Makoanyane Military Hospital in Maseru.
“Apart from that, we have also increased our human resources capacity by recruiting an additional 400 health professionals and placing them in different parts of the country to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
“The professionals will boost the numbers at the National Reference Laboratory, hospitals and isolation facilities.
“Patients with mild symptoms and those who are found to be asymptomatic are still advised to take care and self-isolate in their homes in line with public health regulations which forbid travel, public gatherings, prescribe the wearing of masks and the maintenance of social distancing to avoid spreading the disease.
“But as for those with clear symptoms, they will have to be placed in isolation facilities. Some of the places selected for isolation include the LDF base at Sehlabeng Sa Thuathe.
“We are looking at converting some schools into isolation centres and this will only be done after consultations with and feedback from district administrators.”
Mr Phenethi said they had entered into an agreement with Fox Solutions for the supply of oxygen to ensure that the country’s health facilities do not run out of oxygen.
There has been alarm and panic in the country amid revelations of a widespread shortage of oxygen to assist Covid-19 patients with respiratory problems to breathe.