Coronavirus fears shut factories

Coronavirus fears shut factories

MASERU – THERE was panic at the Thetsane Industrial Area in Maseru on Monday at the sight of two Chinese nationals who were “coughing badly” and were believed to have been sneaked into the country. The local workers immediately called the Ministry of Health to come and inspect the factories.
“What made us more fearful was the sight of so many Chinese. We were hesitant to go close to them and they were always making sure their noses were covered,” said one worker.
“We highly suspect that they (Chinese bosses at the factories) are hiding their sick relatives here knowing well that they might have coronavirus,” another worker alleged, without providing any proof.

“We have to be told the truth so that we decide whether to come to work or stay at home for our own safety,” he said.
Another worker said he saw “an isolated Chinese in the factory premises”.
“The Chinese man seems weak so we suspect that he has coronavirus. He has been locked in a room that looks like a prison.
“Even other Chinese are afraid to approach him,” the worker said, adding: “We have never seen health officials checking on him.”

Several workers said they believed the Chinese entered the country illegally and were hidden inside garment containers.
That claim too could not be verified. In one factory premise in the same area, a Chinese man sat forlornly, seemingly isolated.
“Even other Chinese workers are afraid to approach him,” said one of the dozens of factory workers.

The factory workers downed tools on Monday saying they would only resume work after the Ministry of Health officials had vetted the Chinese nationals.
Lesotho has a sizeable number of Chinese nationals who now control some of the country’s factories.
Like the rest of Africa, Lesotho is yet to record a case of the new coronavirus that has in less than two months killed over 1 100 people in China, its epicentre, and continues to spread to other parts of the world with over 45 000 people infected worldwide.

The alarm locally is manifesting itself in fear that has left Chinese nationals isolated and being treated as outcasts.
That has been the case in other countries across the world as well, with Chinese nationals complaining that the fear of the deadly virus is now turning into a form of racism against them.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is usually spread from person-to-person in close contact through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

This is similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
So serious was the situation that on Tuesday, Health Minister Nkaku Kabi and Labour Minister Keketso Rantšo visited some factories on a fact-finding mission.
Health experts said they went to the factories earlier on Tuesday and found that there were no signs of the killer virus and the Chinese nationals were safe.
However, they will be under quarantine for 14 days to ensure that they are not carrying the virus.

“There is no need for the nation to panic,” Kabi said. “We want to allay the nation’s fear that the coronavirus has hit the country. It is not here,” Kabi said.
He said when the factory workers saw two Chinese women being locked away at the TZICC Factory they were scared, thinking they had the virus.
“That is because when they are locked away it seems like they have some problems,” he said.
Kabi said the Chinese immigrants are being quarantined in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
“People who are from countries that have the corona (virus) should be isolated for 14 days,” he said.

Kabi said they are checked to see whether they develop signs and symptoms of the coronavirus during the 14 days.
Kabi said this at a press briefing held at the TZICC Factory where workers said they were afraid that the killer virus would spread.
The Ministry’s Head Family Health, Dr ’Makhoase Ranyali, said they checked the two Chinese women at the TZICC factory and the test results are negative so far.

“Their temperature is still normal and up to now there are no signs and symptoms of the virus in them,” Dr Ranyali said.
Dr Ranyali said they have prepared the hospital in Berea for people who might catch the virus.
“There are trained nurses and doctors there,” she said.
Journalists were not allowed to see the two Chinese women who have been isolated in the factory premises.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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