A Lesotho health official measures temperatures of motorists as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Maseru bridge in in Maseru, Lesotho, on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Molise Molise / AFP)

By Dumisani Sigogo

As the COVID-19 infections are swelling out of control, Lesotho has announced that it is returning to a hard lockdown by changing strategy and introducing drastic new regulations to enhance the fight against the pandemic.

Addressing the nation on Lesotho Television on the evening of July 18, the Prime Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, announced that the total tested specimens for coronavirus were 7, 432 of which 359 tested positive, with 69 recoveries and six reported deaths.

 The new restrictions as elaborated by the Prime Minister included the following; only five people are allowed for wedding ceremonies, the number of people attending funerals is restricted to family only, plus 10 people for burial services and that such funeral services be held outdoors and completed by 10:00 am.

He added that the following will be closed and they include; churches, schools, initiation schools, political rallies, gyms and parks, sports except for non-contact sports like golf, public gatherings except those intended for COVID-19 awareness with a maximum of not more than 30 people, prisons visits have also been banned except for health workers and law enforcers with permits, noting that community service provided by prisoners have also been stopped.

Again, he said border movement is still not allowed for foreign country visit except for personnel working with COVID-19 equipment, adding that factories will remain open but with 50 percent of workers for day and night shifts thus to promote social distance.

Dr Majoro said the government had pledged to purchase food commodities from Basotho farmers so as to assist vulnerable groups during this challenging time.

The Prime Minister also commended the Minister of Health, Motlatsi Maqelepo and the CEO of Newly Structured National COVID-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC), Thabo Khasipe.

In order to avoid the further devastating economic meltdown that may result from the pandemic, the Prime Minister said NACOSEC had developed comprehensive guidelines to arrest the exponential growth in the infection rate.

Khasipe who is also the Commissioner-General of the Revenue Authority reiterated that although it was a tough balance between saving lives and the economy, Lesotho had no option but to revert to the hard lockdown.

Government red tape, delayed testing and contact tracing as well a struggling health sector are labeled as the causes of the spiraling infection figures

Last week, His Majesty King Letsie III donated the M2 million which was meant for his birthday celebrations, instead, the money will now be used to support the work of the health practitioners and other frontline workers in fighting against COVID-19.

King Letsie III also applauded various groups and individuals for their support in the fight against the pandemic and also pleaded for their continuous assistance.

The King’s Birthday which is a public holiday in the mountainous kingdom and was supposed to take place in Berea but this year was not celebrated in the usual manner due to pandemic.

In his address to the nation, His Majesty said it is not worth celebrating because more and more people continue to be infected and Lesotho has also lost six of its citizens due to COVID-19.