Thabane declares national emergency

Thabane declares national emergency

MASERU – PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane has declared a national emergency as the country braces for the deadly Coronavirus.
Thabane said Lesotho should be ready because the virus is already in South Africa where there are just over a 100 reported cases.

The Prime Minister ordered that schools be closed from today until April 17.
He said there will be screening at the borders and people coming from the affected countries will be quarantined for 14 days at places like Fedix Hotel in Likileng.
Last week the Ministry of Health designated Ha-Rapokolana in Nazareth as a quarantine area.
Thabane said more quarantine areas will be announced in due course.

The government is working out contingent plans to deal with Basotho and students staying or going to South Africa daily.
Those studying abroad will be supported through the National Manpower Development Secretariat.
’Manthabiseng Convention Centre will be the command centre in the fight against the disease.
Thabane said the number of visitors to prisons will be cut and new inmates will be screened before they are locked up.
“I appeal to Basotho to avoid large gatherings, whether it is at funerals, celebrations or any other function,” Thabane said.

He however said this does not mean Basotho should not bury their dead but should be careful to avoid overcrowding.
He said he will talk to the Christian Council of Lesotho, civil society and businesses to work with the government in the fight against the disease that by Tuesday had killed over 8 000 people and inflected more than 200 000 worldwide.

Thabane appealed to employers to take preventive measures like providing protected clothing, soap, running water and to avoid overcrowding.
“We will continue to work with our friends and development partners in the fight against this disease.’’
“This is not the time for pointing fingers at each other,” Thabane said.
He also said Basotho seek divine intervention through prayer.

Education Minister, Mokoto Hloaele, said the schools’ closure period will depend on the status of the epidemic.
“The extension will be informed by its status,” Hloaele said at another press conference a few moments after Thabane’s speech.

Although no case has been reported in Lesotho the tourism sector is already feeling the impact of the crisis, with hotels and lodges reporting a drop in bookings.
“We are the first ones to feel the brunt of corona, the amount of cancellations we have is already too high,” said ’Marethabile Sekhiba, the chairperson of the Lesotho Hotels and Hospitality Association.
“Our cash flow has been badly affected as we have to refund those who are cancelling,” she said, adding that they might have to consider cutting jobs if the situation persists.

’Mamakamane Makamane, the Chairperson of the Lesotho Microfinance Association, has warned that the coronavirus will hit small businesses hard.
“The situation was already bad, the economy was not performing. This virus is adding salt to the wound,” Makamane said.

“We can only put everything in God’s hands because it is clear that this virus is beyond our capabilities.”
Two weeks ago some textile factories said they too might cut jobs because they are failing to get raw materials from China, where the disease was first reported in December.

Mapule Motsopa & Nkheli Liphoto

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