And so the question arises: What was life like before COVID-19? Since the inception of this novel strain of coronavirus in December 2019, it has infiltrated every facet of human life in a manner many of us have never seen. As of the 28th March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that over 570,000 cases have been recorded globally, with regrettably over 26,000 confirmed deaths. In neighbouring South Africa, there are reports of over one thousand (1000) confirmed cases and one (1) death on 26th March, 2020. More disconcerting still, COVID-19 continues to tighten its grip on the world and new infections persist. The great urgency of giving constant and clear education is to guard against any further loss of life. With a gift as precious as this, even the loss of one life is too much.
There are still no officially declared cases of COVID-19 in Lesotho. What is currently a whisper of the virus will undoubtedly be confirmed as its appearance in the country is imminent. The donation of test kits and protective gear by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma as reported by media (EyeWitnessNews; ewn.co.za), will allow for a better picture of the prevalence of COVID-19 within Lesotho’s borders. Fortunately, we need not await the announcement of an official case to start adopting healthier hygiene practices that minimise passing on the virus. All of us, every single Mosotho, can play our parts in reducing the impact that this deadly disease.
Regardless of the challenges we face, Lesotho remains blessed. A blessing we are receiving now is that of knowing in advance what is coming, whereas other countries had not been as fortunate. This foresight gives the opportunity to empower our people with knowledge of how to avert contraction, prevent transmission by those who test positive, and to seek medical attention when displaying severe symptoms.
“Sechaba sa ka se timela ke ho hloka tsebo” (Hosea 4-6) which translates to “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. Knowledge is power. We applaud our government’s attempts in setting the tone and guidelines, as well as other stakeholders who released enlightening statements pertaining to COVID-19 going forward. The work by the public and private sector, as well as faith based organisations, is essential in creating awareness. We are already living under uncertain skies, threatened by a calamity likely to exact its own unique ferocity. Alerting people on the value of washing hands, coughing etiquette, and social distancing, serves to prompt us all to take precaution and be vigilant regarding what is to come. Church leaders, chieftaincies, community health workers, taxi association stalwarts and very importantly radio stations (as means for mass communication) have to be vocal in this fight, and in filtering the message along to our grassroots. It is crucial that these practices are implemented correctly to maximise their efficacy.
There is little doubt that COVID-19 will make this winter one of the hardest Lesotho has endured. With a twenty-one (21) day national lockdown set to run from midnight of the 29th March to 21st April 2020, our landlocked country is bound to feel the pinch of winter stab like never before. It is time to stand up and unite as a nation and a people in our response to this potentially fatal coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has indicated that Africa is set to be the next epicentre for COVID-19, with the United Nations calling for Africa to be given priority with capacity to respond to this global pandemic. Let us be precautious in our interactions, take heed as to how to protect ourselves and others, and be responsible in the information we share about COVID-19. Misinformation and propaganda that sprout as bi-products of times of apprehension are best controlled by giving well-defined and responsible communications from credible sources. The WHO has identified symptoms of this illness, and given basic and necessary practices that can curtail its reach.
The most common symptoms are: Fever; tiredness; dry cough; and strained breathing. Some patients may experience: Sore throat, nasal congestion, runny nose, aches and pains, and diarrhoea.
The following hygiene practices help to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Correct and frequent washing of hands – People should regularly wash hands using soap and under running water. The use of sanitisers with an alcohol base of more than 60% is advised.
- Social distancing – As winter – the peak season of any flu – approaches, social distancing becomes the order of the day, and rightly so. With a virus that can be transmitted so easily, keeping safe distance is necessary to minimise transmission. People should avoid physical contact (shaking hands, hugging, etc.), and keep their distances from each other in social spaces. This is especially important for those who have been travelling abroad.
- Self-quarantine/isolation – Those who display symptoms are advised to self-isolate to prevent spreading illness. It is important to get tested and seek medical attention.
- Coughing etiquette – Coughing and sneezing should be done into tissues or into the bow of one’s elbow. Tissues should be thrown away and hands regularly washed.
- Wiping down of surfaces – Avoid touching surfaces and regularly wipe down surfaces that you may come in contact with.
The global pandemic that is COVID-19 is scarring the world with a wound whose depth we have yet to properly feel. In addition to the growing single-day fatalities, the socio-economic impacts will be felt most once the virus plateaus – an eventuality which is unforeseeable for the near future. It is now evident that 2020 and this new decade did not start off with a bang but rather with a cough; a cough that has hit the whole world.
It is key to note that there is no known cure for this virus. The preservation of life is our utmost priority. For better or worse, Lesotho is our home. We must carry her on our shoulders, taking care of ourselves and each other. In so doing, we can mitigate the effects and the legacy of coronavirus in our country.
Coronavirus helpline number in Lesotho:
Vodacom Lesotho: 80032020
Econet Lesotho: 66100100