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Update from Lesotho and South Africa

02.02.2021

Lesotho and South Africa have been particularly badly hit by Covid-19 and the new virus variant, with South Africa accounting for almost half of the coronavirus deaths on the continent. The situation in the landlocked country of Lesotho is also tense: There has been an extreme increase in corona cases there since mid-December. In the beginning of January, hospitals as well as the mortuaries were overloaded.

A man works at a screening center and takes the temperature of a patient. 

Third alert level in South Africa (out of five)

As a regional economic center, South Africa attracts many migrants. Border crossings are heavily congested, including this one with Lesotho. The sharp increase in cases in December is attributed in part to the large amount of travel between urban and rural areas in December due to the festive season and to the spread of the new variant of coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Many people were exposed to Covid-19 infections when they had to wait many hours to cross borders. As a result, more than a month ago, the South African president declared the third (second highest) alert level. There is, among other things, a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and the purchase and consumption of alcohol has been banned. In addition, the South African government decided on January 11 to close its national borders to general entry and exit until February 15.

Vaccinations not expected to start before July 2021

Our local employees also decided to close their offices again at the beginning of January and to work remotely if possible. Employees who provide close care to others are informed about the necessary precautions to better protect themselves and others at the regular team meetings. In many places, hospitals are overcrowded. And our team colleagues report numerous people, some of them seriously ill with Covid-19, and also deaths from their immediate social environment. Our local partners do not expect South Africa to start vaccinating before the end of the first half of the year.

Lesotho: Health system at its limits

Since mid-December, Lesotho has reported a very large number of new cases. There are several reasons for this. Often, only people entering South Africa were tested at the border crossings, workers crossed the border from South Africa back to Lesotho illegally in order to evade the paid test, and there is also a great shortage of testing capacity. The lockdown, originally set to last two weeks from mid-January, was extended by the government last week until early February. Travel between districts is limited. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that the closure of border crossings with South Africa, Lesotho will be hit hard. The landlocked country imports most of its goods from South Africa. The FAO further says that more than 580,000 people out of a total population of 2.2 million are currently food insecure.

SolidarMed employees mourn loss of family members

All local SolidarMed employees who can, support the Covid-19 related measures, such as the screenings. There are some positive cases within the team, others have already lost close family members to the coronavirus. The situation in Lesotho is therefore very difficult for everyone.