Panic grips Lesotho

Panic grips Lesotho

MASERU-THERE was panic in Lesotho after South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday announced a 21-day lockdown that begins at midnight tonight.
Thousands of Basotho were in a stampede to cross into South Africa yesterday to run urgent errands before the lockdown began.
There were long queues at the border.

’Makotelo Mosia* told thepost that she was travelling to Ladybrand to see her doctor before the lockdown began.
“I was supposed to go there next week … but with this lockdown I think I should just go,” Mosia said.
“I don’t even know if I will be able to see the doctor today. It looks like everyone is rushing somewhere and I have been here for almost two hours.”

Mareabetsoe Mantsoe said she was going to Ladybrand to fix her banking issues.
“We don’t know how the lockdown will turn out. It may be longer than the proposed 21 days and in that time I need to be able to transact,” Mantsoe said.
“We are not sure we will be allowed to cross once it starts.”

Puseletso Pheko who has been a street vendor for more than 20 years at the Maseru Bridge said he has never witnessed such traffic without having buyers.
“We think people are panicking because of this virus, they just want to get to wherever they are going,” Pheko said.
“Business is bad, we are also scared but we have to put food on the table,” she said.

In supermarkets such as Pick ‘n Pay food shelves were mostly fully stocked, with empty ones being restocked as consumers continued to shop.
Sam Mphana, Manager of Pick ’n Pay Lesotho, said they had seen an increase in customers buying groceries. He however said everyone was buying what they needed and not stock piling.
“Right now people are buying like it is monthend even though it is not monthend yet,” Mphana said.

The supermarket has put in place hand sanitizers so that every customer can be able to clean their hands before they start shopping.
“We are trying to avoid the spread (of Coronavirus) by having everyone sanitize their hands so that even if you happen to take an item and later choose to leave it behind at least you did so with clean hands,” he said.

In addition staff were sanitizing their hands every morning when they come into the supermarket and throughout the day.
Those working at the tills were also sanitizing their hands after every transaction.
Mphana said at the moment they are still placing orders as normal and are assuming that stock will continue to come from South Africa.

“It is true we heard the President of South Africa announce a lockdown but he also said that significant industries like those of food production will still be open, so we are hoping that we will receive the ordered stock.”
Most shelves were still full in Pick ’n Pay on Tuesday and those that were empty were being restocked.

“The empty shelves are a result of the past weekend, we receive stock on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”
Pitso Melao, the Regional Manager of Shoprite Lesotho, said they had put in place measures to avoid panic buying.
“We have given a directive as per our policy that no customer should buy more than three items of the same product but if push comes to shove then we will say one item per customer,” Melao said.

Melao also thinks that they will still get orders that they have placed as no supplier has told them that they will not be able to deliver the ordered goods.
Shoprite has introduced marked spots to enable customers to stand a meter apart to avoid the spread of Coronavirus.
However the problem is that some still stand close to each other.
“We are spot on in terms of ensuring hygiene, we have sanitizers for shoppers, trolley cleaners and our till staff also clean their hands before assisting customers,” Melao said.

The president of the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Ntaote Seboka, says the informal, transport and maybe the retail sectors will be badly affected during the 21 day lockdown in South Africa as there will be restricted movement.
“We think that the manufacturing sector will close on Friday due to inadequate supplies and as a precautionary measure to avoid the spread of the virus,” Seboka said.

He said even if Lesotho does not propose a lock down the fact that it is landlocked by South Africa means the country will also be effectively under one. (See story on Page 1)
He said as business they are also trying to prevent the spread of the virus by promoting good hygiene practices.

“We acknowledged that this is a tough period, if you look anywhere in the world the impact of this virus on business is terrible,” he said.
“However, as business and part of society we have to stand firm and actively participate in this fight.”
“If we have to close we will because the lives of Basotho come first, after all we need people working in our businesses.”
* Not her real name

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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