So… you’ve heard about this new thing – the coronavirus?
The first cases of COVID-19, a strain of the coronavirus, were first pronounced in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The coronavirus, as stated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), belongs to a family of viruses that can manifest as mild or severe respiratory illness. COVID-19 is novel strain of coronavirus previously unknown in humans. Disturbingly, almost four (4) months into the year 2020, this virus has made its presence felt in every continent and according to the WHO has been detected in 166 countries thus far. This virus is a global pandemic, with thousands of lives lost worldwide and an omnipresent fear that more deaths are likely as COVID-19 continues to extend its reach.
Like ash blown quietly into an angry wind, the shadows of this virus are sweeping across distant borders. Its epicenter was initially stated as China. However as of March 2020, Europe has now become the epicenter, with Italy currently being the worst affected country after China. As reported by international media, Italy suffered the highest death toll within a 24-hour period due to COVID-19, with 475 deaths recorded on the 18th of March. As reported on aljazeera.com, on the African continent, 33 countries have reported cases and there have been 17 deaths as of 19th March.
As the seasons change and winter seeps out of the northern hemisphere, winding its way down south to come scratch its cold fist on our doors, the rates of diffusion of the virus are bound to multiply and spread. Winter is coming. Winter is coming to Lesotho.
No official cases have been declared in the country as yet. Even so, numbers are rising at alarming rates in neighbouring South Africa. Lying landlocked within South Africa’s belly, the virus is all around us by virtue of our geographic location. The arrival of COVID-19 in our borders is inevitable.
Circulating at an unprecedented rate of transmission, countries are enforcing travel bans and going to great lengths to take precautionary measures to protect people from contracting or transferring the virus to others. Basotho say “Ho ipaballa ho molemo ho feta setlhare” which translates to “Prevention is better than cure”. Considering a population size of approximately 2 million people, compounded by the existing (often dire) challenges Lesotho faces, it would not be a far stretch of the imagination to deduce that the effects of this virus would be devastating for an already disadvantaged people.
The upcoming influx of Basotho migrants coming home from South Africa for Easter holidays calls for tightened screening and broader education concerning COVID-19. The limited capacity of our country to handle the outbreak of such a deadly virus means, to limit transmission, it is essential to stand in unison in our nation’s response.
One way to get ahead of this imminent collective fight is through accurate and effective mass communication. The work embarked on by government in creating awareness of the virus needs to be carried forward by us the people. The sneezing, sniffling and coughing that is customary of winter will this year undoubtedly bring higher risk of viral transmission, if people are not educated now as to the great need to start exercising more vigilance.
All media, all leaders (at community, district and national level), all turns of community, from public sector to private, need to be proactive in their dissemination of information on this pandemic. In our communities, workplaces, homes, as well as the social media spaces we occupy, we need to be responsible with the information we share to ensure that people are aware of the basic but beneficial practices that we need to immediately adopt to prevent the upsurge of a disease that has the potential to ravage this country like no other before it.
So far, we know that:
- COVID-19 is an airborne virus. It can be transmitted through sneezing and coughing. People should sneeze and cough into a tissue or their elbows and maintain our distances from others when we do so.
- COVID-19 can also be transmitted through touch. People should regularly wipe down and/or disinfectant the surfaces we encounter, as well as minimize physical contact with others.
- It is important to properly and frequently wash hands, using soap and under running water.
- Self-quarantine and social distancing are advised for people who have traveled abroad.
Let’s all take heed, not only to protect ourselves, but our loved ones and those around us.