Army to enforce lockdown in Lesotho

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane on Wednesday this week announced a soldier-patrolled lockdown to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global pandemic over coronavirus, which causes an illness known as COVID-19. It has spread to at least 170 countries and territories, killing more than 22 000 people and infecting more than 480 000 according to John’s Hopkins University. Although the pandemic has spread across the globe and Africa, Lesotho is still one of the few countries in the world with zero confirmed cases of COVID-19. There have been more than 700 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa – the highest in Africa – with the number multiplying six-fold in just eight days, sparking concerns about Lesotho’s vulnerability to the contagious disease. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, Thabane said cabinet had decided to enforce a national lockdown from midnight Sunday, March 29, to April 21. At least M700 million has been set aside to combat the disease. “All citizens will have to stay at home and will not be allowed to move out,” Thabane said. Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to buy food, medicine and other important house supplies.

He said health workers, those in the security services, those involved in the distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and essential personnel in the public service would be exempted from this lockdown. All shops and businesses will be closed, except for supermarkets, grocery shops, pharmacies, medical stores and petrol stations. Thabane said this was a decisive measure to save Basotho from infection. He accordingly directed the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) to be deployed with immediate effect to support the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) in ensuring that the ban is enforced.

Many countries have announced tough confinement measures after sealing their borders and closing public places. South Africa entered a nationwide lockdown for 21-days last night. Botswana president Mokgweetsi Masisi has also called on Batswana to prepare for a possible lockdown. In a message to the nation yesterday, Masisi said his government had been advised by health experts to “restrict the movement of people so we are better able to trace and treat any case that occurs”. “Please prepare yourselves for the eminent lockdown,” said Masisi, himself on 14-day self-isolation after travelling to neighbouring Namibia for a president inauguration last weekend.

In Ghana, some citizens have mounted pressure on the government to lock down the country as the deadly coronavirus increases daily. The call is to help the country contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) this week called on the government to lock down the country with immediate effect to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The GMA said only essential services such as food, water, and medicine businesses should be allowed to operate.

“The lockdown, though not a comfortable decision for leadership and citizens alike, is a proven option backed by science and along with the other measures will ultimately be in our best interest. “We call on all Ghanaians to support such a move in the national interest to save our nation from the devastating effects of this pandemic,” the GMA said. The Bureau of Public Safety also called for the “immediate discriminated lockdown” of Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions for at least 21 days. As of the morning of March 26, Ghana has 54 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including three deaths.

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