Govt desperate for COVID-19 response funds



MASERU – In a desperate bid to avert the seemingly imminent effect of the novel COVID-19 government has rolled out a M700 million National Covid–19 Response Integrated Plan 2020, only the country is struggling to source funds for its budget. Finance Minister, Dr Moeketsi Majoro, announced last week that government had set aside the M700 million to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that is fast claiming tens of thousands of lives globally, and threatens to rip apart Lesotho’s slightly over two-million population. COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on January 30 with the global health body further declaring it a pandemic on March 13.

Since then more countries, territories and areas, the report notes, are either reporting imported and/or locally transmitted cases, with Italy, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom being the hardest hit. To date, Lesotho has not reported any confirmed case of COVID-19 although this week seven suspected cases were found to be negative.

The pandemic first broke out in China in December 2019 and the country has reported more than 3 000 deaths while countries to which the virus was imported such as Italy and the US, have recorded tens of thousands of deaths, with Italy further registering the loss of 67 medical doctors. There are fears that more than 800 000 jobs have been lost worldwide. Public Eye can report that Lesotho may not get the much-needed financial boost from the International Momentary Funds (IMF) to fight and control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Finance, Motena Tšolo, revealed this week that the assistance that the Lesotho government will get from development partners will offset the amount it requires for response to the pandemic.

“So every support received is deducted from the M700 million set aside by government so that the requirement from government is reduced,” Tšolo revealed. Tšolo further said the ministry was currently working on a document scheduled to be ready today to determine if the government would request financial assistance from IMF.

She had, however, told this paper on Tuesday chances of Lesotho getting money from the IMF were very slim since “Lesotho does not have any ongoing programme with IMF.” This is bad news particularly coming hot on the heels of Lesotho having missed out on a US$2 billion (about M35 billion) Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) from which up to 51 countries in Africa, South America and Asia are set to benefit.

Finances allowing, response strategies to be engaged will be divided into six sectors, namely, the Health, Security, Border Management, Logistics, Coordination and Information sectors, as well as Monitoring and Evaluation.

The National Covid–19 Response Integrated Plan 2020 report, which government is using as a guideline to manage the fast spreading disease for which no Mosotho has tested positive thus far, anticipates that the M700 million is to be channeled towards the health sector which is meant to enjoy a huge chunk of M394 920 537 as the line ministry for management of the pandemic, followed by M112 716 420 for logistics, M46 514 800 for security, M19 713 760 for coordination, M3 944 976 for border management as well as M3 927 300 for information dissemination.

Public Eye understands that the plan is to be implemented using the “The one Health” and “Whole of Society” approach, implemented at three levels of the health care delivery system of Lesotho, covering both the public and private health systems.

“The aim of the plan is to provide procedures to be followed in preparing for and responding to the threat of COVID-19 in Lesotho. The objectives are to put in place and sustain interventions for the prevention of COVID-19 in Lesotho, strengthen COVID-19 surveillance at points of entry, health care facilities and communities, put in place appropriate mechanisms in case management, and to protect health care workers from contracting COVID-19 as well as creating awareness,” the report notes.

“The plan covers four main areas: case detection and control management of COVID-19 pandemic, planning and resource management as well as health personnel who are to be deployed to care for COVID-19 cases. The plan is estimated to cost M394 920 537.” To strengthen the health ministry’s capacity, government anticipates the security sector in the form of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS), Lesotho Correctional Services (LCS) and the National Security Service (NSS), is to be prepped up with M46 514 800 “to protect life and property”.

“The mandate of this sector is to protect life and property for all residents throughout the Kingdom of Lesotho, including securing National Borders and the main activities are as follows: that LDF will reinforce deployment for security and to carry out screening at inland facilities and operational ports of entry, provide perimeter security of established quarantine facilities, liaise with other security agencies and other relevant stakeholders in the Republic of South Africa; and participate in evacuation of persons and repatriation of affected citizens as maybe necessary,” notes the report.

“The LMPS will provide security to the places of interest during this period, such as at the operational ports of entry, closed ports of entry, prevent illegal crossing and ensure safety of all at illegal crossing points; while also preventing crime in all its forms. LMPS will also put measures in place to discourage gatherings where the numbers exceed fifty, disperse any gathering where the numbers exceed fifty and enforce the Liquor Licensing Act accordingly.”

The reports adds: “NSS is to provide strategic advice, warnings and forecasting on health related threats and maintain border security, while the Correctional Services is to protect the “corrections community” comprising of inmates and staff from contracting the COVID-19 disease. In addition the department further seeks to prevent correctional institutions from becoming breeding sites that may eventually undermine all state efforts of controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the general populace. The total requirements for this sector are estimated at M46 514 800.”


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