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A matter of life and death



THE surge in Covid-19 infections and deaths in the last week should serve as a wake-up call to every Mosotho at every level of society. Seven more deaths and 260 new infections were reported this week, bringing the total number of dead to 60 and those infected to 3 914. If these statistics do not shock you, then nothing will. What the stats merely confirm is that we are facing a monumental disaster in this country. That should not be a surprise given our geographical proximity to South Africa which is the hardest hit in Africa. We have seen record numbers of desperate patients flooding our hospitals across the country. We might even know of families that have lost their loved ones in the past week. Health workers, who are in the frontline fighting the disease, have not been spared either. That is scary. We know what has caused the surge in infections. One of the chief causes was the decision by the government to allow thousands of Basotho working across the border in South Africa to come home for the holidays. No tests were done at the borders. Others even used illegal entry points to get into Lesotho. That was a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, we are now paying the price. On Tuesday, the government announced tighter restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, a move some will say is coming a little too late. We would have wanted the government to impose a harder lockdown. Painful as that may be, we do not see any other way to halt the spread of this deadly virus. A hard lockdown, unpopular as it may be, now appears the most likely route out of this crisis. Any further delay will likely see the virus overwhelming our already anaemic health delivery system. We do not make this proposal to shut down the economy lightly. We do so fully cognisant of the economic ruin and pain such a measure might bring on thousands of Basotho. We know that such a decision will result in further hardships for the majority of our people who basically live from hand-to-mouth. However, given the existential threat the virus is posing to Basotho, it would be clear dereliction of duty not to act with speed. That is why we would rather endorse a painful lockdown as opposed to the current status. We would rather go through pain now in order to stay alive tomorrow. To cushion the poor, the government should look at novel ways of protecting the vulnerable amongst us. It has also become clear that whatever measures that were put in place after the outbreak of the pandemic have proved woefully inadequate. We have generally refused to wear masks. We have insisted we still wanted to stick to our traditions in giving our loved ones’ hearty send-offs at large, ostentatious funerals. We have insisted we still wanted to host huge, boisterous weddings. Our choices are now coming back to haunt us. Yet when we had time to properly plan to fight the virus, the National Covid Secretariat (Nacosec) squandered that opportunity through infighting. That was an astonishing failure of leadership! Now the chickens are coming home to roost. For once, we are expecting Basotho to comply with the new restrictions. It is a matter of life and death.

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