M16.3m ‘war chest’ to fight virus

M16.3m ‘war chest’ to fight virus

MASERU – HEALTH Minister Nkaku Kabi wants Cabinet to authorise a M16.3 million “war chest” to prepare the country for an outbreak of the coronavirus, thepost heard this week.
Kabi said this at the same time Lesotho announced it has a suspected case of a patient who is being treated at the Mafeteng Hospital. The patient’s blood samples have been sent to Bloemfontein for testing.
The patient arrived in Lesotho from Sri Lanka on February 28 but was only attended by medical experts on Monday after displaying signs of the coronavirus.

It is not known exactly how many people the suspect had close contacts with before going to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru, which transferred him to Mafeteng.
In a statement released by the Ministry of Health, the patient was only isolated on Monday at a facility.
Kabi admitted that Lesotho does not have proper facilities for testing the virus hence the need to take blood samples to Bloemfontein.
He also proposed a lockdown of the entire country should there be a serious outbreak. Kabi’s statement comes in the wake of South Africa confirming that over 13 people had been infected by the virus.

Talking to the media on Monday, Kabi admitted that Lesotho is not fully ready to deal with the pandemic.
“I am afraid if we get one case we would be in a very difficult position as we are only 85 percent ready,” Kabi said, adding that he would suggest a total lockdown.
He said he wanted to test everybody who enters the country and those who test positive for the coronavirus will be isolated at the Ha-Rapokolana facility, deep in the Thaba-Putsoa Mountains.

He also suggested that all people who will enter the kingdom will be kept isolated for 14 days even if they do not show any symptoms for the coronavirus.
It takes at least six days for any carrier to show symptoms.
He also discouraged travel from Lesotho to other countries.

Kabi said the South African High Commission to Lesotho has promised to issue guidelines for students crossing daily to that country.
“This will help us avoid extreme measures and act accordingly,” Kabi said.
Kabi said they have not yet embarked on stopping individuals from bringing their children who are studying outside the country, at least until further notice.
“But we wouldn’t expect them to act on the contrary if we recommend that they should stay there,” he said.
“It is not very safe (and) should there be a problem that person would be creating a problem.”

The government has since issued a memo suspending international travel pending further notice.
The memo, signed by the government secretary Moahloli Mphaka, says the drastic measure is taken “due to the outbreak of coronavirus (which is) spreading (around) the whole world”.

The cabinet, Mphaka wrote, decided to suspend all international travel with immediate effect.
Kabi said the money he is asking from the cabinet will be used to coordinate and survey points of entry, manage cases and prevent infection.
He said it will also be used in risk communication and community engagement.

He further said it will be used to sensitise district health workers and nine borders, 13 clinicians trained on clinical supervision of the virus.
“We don’t want to lie, as the ministry we are not well beefed up as China,” he said.
He encouraged Basotho to stop shaking hands as a means of greeting as they hardly wash their hands. He said people must observe sneezing and coughing etiquette.
He said about seven cases have now been confirmed in South Africa.
On Monday morning, the government called all development partners to discuss the preparedness of the country now that South Africa’s confirmed cases are piling up almost every day.

“For now, we don’t have a strong muscle with this virus which came unexpectedly, we were using self-isolation which is not 100 percent safe,” he said.
He said the World Bank pledged to add more resources to ensure better monitoring at the borders.
“At first, we were only checking the temperature and all symptoms then do tests while still isolating one for 14 days,” he said.

“If we have a worse case, it means we will be stranded leading to lots of losses of lives because our isolation places need beds and oxygen,” he said.
He said they informed development partners that everyone from affected places will be isolated for those 14 days.
“We will not tell them to return back from their places but rather isolate them,” he said.
He said there will be a huge challenge from those coming from South Africa as it is a neighbouring country and there are a lot of Basotho there.

’Mapule Motsopa

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