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Right demands at the wrong time



THE Ministry of Health has now confirmed that three people have so far died of Covid-19, a situation that once again shines the light on our deeply precarious situation as a country. By Tuesday this week, 256 people had tested positive for Covid-19. The number of positive cases and the recorded deaths are frightening figures given where we were as a country just a few weeks ago. This surge in numbers is happening at a time when the government has done all it can to keep the figures under the lid. That in itself must be a real cause for worry to all of us. We have watched, helplessly, as the disease begins to hit people we know in our communities. There is palpable fear all over. We also note a sense of resignation amongst others, particularly those who have watched the disease overwhelm nations with sophisticated healthcare systems than our own. But this is no time to surrender. We must fight back. Amidst this national crisis, doctors and nurses in Lesotho have downed tools to press for better working conditions. Sadly, in our opinion, this would appear to be a case of the right demands being made at the wrong time. The health professionals have downed tools to force the government to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) so that they could better fight the Covid-19 pandemic. They are also demanding that the government pays them a M7 000 risk allowance. In a normal situation, these would be very reasonable demands and the government would have simply acquiesced to such demands, particularly on the PPEs, without question. Every reasonable Mosotho will not argue with the health professionals’ demands to be provided with the basics to do their job properly. No soldier should be asked to march into a war zone without protective equipment. Yet our medical professionals must also be reminded that we are facing a monumental national emergency. Ours are very abnormal times. We all know that Covid-19 is posing perhaps one of the greatest threats we have ever faced as a nation. It is precisely for this reason that we have problems accepting their demands for a M7 000 risk allowance. That, however, should not be a deal-breaker. The government and the medical professionals must meet each other half-way so that they get on with the core business of fighting the pandemic for our national good. Any day longer that the industrial action is allowed to continue, will be a blow to our national efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19. No testing and tracing can be done during the strike. In other words, the numbers of those infected are likely to balloon out of control and by the time the health professionals and the government agree on a reasonable package, the damage would already have been done. That is why it is urgent that this stalemate be resolved as quickly as possible to allow efforts to be channeled to fight the pandemic. We know a week is a long time during a pandemic. If it this matter is not resolved urgently we are likely to pay heavily as a country in a few weeks’ time when cases soar. We know we have no capacity as a country to deal with such an avalanche of cases. We do not have enough beds or ventilators in our hospitals. That is why it would be prudent to urgently resolve the stalemate and channel our energy in preventing a spike in cases.  

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