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NACOSEC to open free testing centres in 10 districts

…while Lesotho begs for Covid vaccine

Chris Theko 

Health Minister Motlatsi Maqelepo announced that Lesotho has been welcoming large numbers of visitors from South Africa and other countries since the beginning of December, an influx he said is raising the possibility of the Covid-19 surge in the country.

The minister indicated that the country recorded about 130 000 people entering the country, noting that they were citizens of both Lesotho and South Africa.

Maqelepo made the notation at the height of South Africa’s move to level 3 of its lockdown on Tuesday after more than one million coronavirus cases were recorded in that country.

More than 27 000 people have died of the disease in South Africa.

With the development in the neighbouring South Africa, a lot concerns were raised to the implications the level 3 move had to Lesotho and Basotho’s movement, mostly among Basotho who returned back home for the Christmas holidays.

“About 20% of those travellers had Covid-19 clearance certificates,” said Maqelepo noting that the visitors presented two problems; one being the possibility of spreading the virus, especially in villages.

“The second problem was the cost of Covid-19 tests. Many people do not have money for the tests, but ministry of health will facilitate with the tests and that will help us determine the number of people infected in the villages,” he said.

Maqelepo disclosed that every district hospital will have a testing facility for the virus accessible for Basotho.

“This will commence from tomorrow, (Wednesday)” said Maqelepo.

“Our expectation going forward is for every district hospital to have an onsite centre for taking swabs which will then be sent to the national lab,” he explained noting the plan is to have at least 200 sample tested daily.

The swabs will be sent to labs for coronavirus testing and the results will be duly passed on to affected persons.

The health minister said people requiring Covid-19 clearance certificates to cross back into South Africa will also be assisted.

“Operations will begin from 08:00 until 12:00 and it will be on the basis of first come first serve basis, taking into account the tests must be taken 72 hours before travelling,” said Maqelepo.

“The certificate should be issued the next day and taken back to the district.”

Apart from a valid passport, a work permit, special permit, or study permit, Maqelepo said persons must produce a certificate showing they are free of the Covid-19 before they can be allowed into South Africa.

The minister also explained that in effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Lesotho has submitted the application to the international bodies to seek assistance in the securing of vaccine. 

“The first batch of the vaccine will be expected in the second quarter of next year which will cover 20 percent of the overall population,” he said. 

Lesotho will then be expected to purchase the 80 percent remaining batch of the vaccine. 

He said the distribution of the vaccine will be guided by what the experts have recommended as the most vulnerable persons in the population.

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