Fatal misconceptions about Coronavirus

Fatal misconceptions about Coronavirus

THABA-TSEKA-MIXED messages on the coronavirus (Covid-19) are doing the rounds in rural areas as the disease spreads across Africa.
Some are aware of the deadly virus while others are in the dark. Many others wrongly think local people are immune to the virus.
“This is a disease for the whites and rich, it will not kill us at all,” says a taxi driver travelling from Thaba-Tseka to Maseru.
“We have been immune from many deadly diseases and we will not start now to succumb to this one,” he shouts while buying a packet of potato chips from a bus stop shop near Ha-Moholobela, over 100 kilometres north-east of Maseru.

“We eat food that not many other countries eat, our bodies are strong, our ancestors have protected us from the worst, we are not going to be killed from sneezes and coughs and mere touching,” he says with a sense of bravado.
He is not the only one who assumes that the lack of reported cases in Lesotho is evidence that locals are immune to the virus.
Social media messages, taxi conversations and random conversation on coronavirus by Basotho suggest there is little sensitisation going on by the Ministry of Health and if it has been there, the message has not been driven home.

In Ha-Tšiu, Mohlanapeng in the Thaba-Tseka District, Seitlheko Tšoaoa says he only knew of coronavirus when he arrived at a public gathering of herd-boys, parents and community leaders on Monday.
Tšoaoa heard about the virus for the first time when the Principal Chief of Matsieng, Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, started spreading messages on coronavirus.
Tšoaoa was in Sani Pass in Mokhotlong at a cattle post and had just returned home on Monday.
He said herd-boys are always the last people to receive information.

“We don’t get to hear anything about outbreaks or what the country is doing until it is too late, we are always not informed (on time),” Tšoaoa says.
However, community members in Ha-Tšiu appear to be aware of the virus.
Their clinic, Mohlanapeng Health Centre, is continuously teaching villagers about Covid-19 and how to lower chances of transmission or infection.
’Matšosane Lekhutla is one of the villagers who now knows what corona is and how dangerous the virus is if found in a community.

She says all they can do is abide by the precautionary measures prescribed by health experts.
“This virus is dangerous because it is quickly transmitted though touching a contaminated surface or being too close to a person who can infect you,” she says, displaying a deep understanding of the virus.

“It is unlike any disease that we have seen because even without knowing if anyone is infected they will pass the virus on to you,” Lekhutla says.
She says they have started washing their hands more regularly; they now do not meet in large numbers in a closed place and that if one shows any signs of a common cold and flu they should rush to the hospital and isolate themselves.
Raphotho Senauoane, another resident, says he has never been this scared in his life.

“I see this virus as the end of all of us,” Senauoane says.
“Basotho are going to die if they do not take precautionary measures seriously. The fact that one gets infected so easily is what scares me,” he says.
Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso told the villagers that the virus may look like flu and common cold but should not be taken lightly because it is deadly.
“It is not common flu. There are reported cases in the Free State and this means it is closer than we could ever think, if not in the country already,” Chief Seeiso says.

“It is worse because we already have high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and TB in the country, we are at greater risk of facing a fatal experience if we don’t keep ourselves safe,” he says.
Chief Seeiso warns that from his research he had learned that the virus adopts well in cold weather and with Lesotho in the early months leading to winter, June and July will be bad for the country if nothing is done to fight possible outbreak of the virus in the country.

“We need to listen to health care providers now more than ever,” the chief says in a raised voice.
“This virus does not discriminate. It is not for the rich or poor, not for the old or young,” he says.
“However, the old are at a greater risk of dying from the virus.”

“Wash your hands as many times as you can because sanitisers are hard to find and very expensive. Do not stand too close to people, cough and sneeze in your elbow. We all need to work together to not reach devastating numbers of transmission.”

Dr Rodrigue Mwanawabene, the District Health Manager, says they are working with different stakeholders to spread the message on Covid-19.
Dr Mwanawabene says although Thaba-Tseka does not have a legal border gate, people still find ways to illegally cross over into South Africa.
“These are the spots that we might miss out on screening people because screening happens at official border posts,” Dr Mwanawabene says.

He says because of the geographic mapping of the district and limited human resources it is hard to reach herd boys and the most remote communities to share the message with them.
“The only time to get hold of herd-boys is if we arrive where they are in the early hours of the morning or late afternoon because during the day they are out grazing their livestock,” Dr Mwanawabene says.

“These hours are very awkward to work around especially when human resources are not enough and there aren’t vehicles to assist,” he says.
Dr Mwanawabene says they have talked to Paray Hospital to sensitize religious leaders.
We have engaged the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Home Affairs who are trying to keep the district safe, he says.

“We need to screen everyone who comes from SA and investigate how they got home.”
Dr Mwanawabene says there is “a suspected case in Sehong-Hong but we have not been able to go there because we do not have fuel for our cars”.
Dr Marc Derveeuw, the UNFPA country director, says Lesotho needs to be ready to safeguard the lives of Basotho because it is not a matter of if it will come to Lesotho but when it does get here.

He says the government should be ready to minimise the chances of its spread and the infection rate.
“Lesotho is already under a burden of diseases and cannot take up corona as a light issue,” Dr Derveeuw says.
He advises the health department to be up on all fours to sensitize the people and see that necessary steps are taken to screen and keep the virus from spreading.

Rose Moremoholo

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