NUL withdraws from 2020 intervarsity games

. . . as corona virus fears spread

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – The National University of Lesotho (NUL) has decided to withdraw from the 2020 intervarsity games, highlighting concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. “The NUL management decided after receiving a report on the stance of the SRC and All-sports Committee on the issue whether to proceed with the trip, to withdraw NUL from 2020 intervarsity games forthwith and cancel NUL’s trip to the Kingdom of Eswatini and participation in the games in order to protect students and staff from the pandemic,” NUL’s acting Vice Chancellor, Associate Professor ’Manthoto Lephoto, said in a memorandum yesterday.

Lephoto said the decision was also consistent with the decision taken on March 11 by the University of Eswatini, to postpone the intervarsity games. Lephoto indicated that although no coronavirus case has been reported in Lesotho, as the university community, “we have to take precautions to prevent or minimise the spread of infections”. NUL is just the last of the three participating universities to pull out of the intervarsity games, which were supposed to be held in Eswatini this month.

The first to back out was the University of Botswana (UB), soon after which the University of Eswatini’s acting vice chancellor Professor Pinkie Zwane wrote to her NUL counterpart on Wednesday this week notifying her of the postponement of the games.

“We regret to advise that due to the threat posed by the worldwide outbreak of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) the University of Eswatini has taken a decision to postpone the hosting of Intervarsity Games indefinitely,” Zwane said.

“Whilst we are aware that preparations for the games were at an advanced stage among the three participating universities, advice from the Ministry of Education and Training and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to the effect that large gatherings be avoided at this time with a view to curbing the spread of the deadly disease,” she added.

Government Secretary (GS), Moahloli Mphaka, announced on Tuesday government has effected an international travel ban as a precaution in response to growing concerns about the coronavirus scourge. “Please be advised that, in view of the rapid spread and significant mortality of the Covid-19 virus across the globe, it has become increasingly necessary to reduce the risk of exposure,” Mphaka said.

He added: “In this regard, Cabinet has declared that official international travel shall cease forthwith, as a precautionary measure intended to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus.” Mphaka said the moratorium “applies to all dignitaries and officers of the government in all government institutions: ministries, departments, parastatals, projects and any other state-owned enterprises”. Currently, Lesotho has no reported case of COVID-19.

There were 130,230 confirmed cases across the world and 4,756 deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as at March 12, 2020, 16:30 GMT. Closer to home, in South Africa, confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 17 yesterday. WHO on Wednesday declared the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, acknowledging what has seemed clear for some time — the virus will likely spread to all countries on the globe.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the situation will worsen. “We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” said Tedros, as the director-general is known. WHO officials had said earlier they were hesitant to call the outbreak a pandemic in case it led governments and individuals to give up the fight.

On Wednesday, they stressed fundamental public health interventions can still limit the spread of the virus and drive down cases even where it was transmitting widely, as the work of authorities and communities in China, Singapore, and South Korea has shown.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus,” Tedros said at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, while making the announcement. “It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.” At the same time, Tedros said: “This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector — so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight.” Tedros said this was the first coronavirus to reach pandemic levels, but added “we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled.”

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