Lesotho imposes compulsory vaccination on Basotho migrants returning from South Africa

Those who have been vaccinated while in South Africa will be expected to produce proof upon arrival.   

By Lerato Matheka
Published: Thursday 09 December 2021
Lesotho imposes compulsory vaccination rule on Basotho migrants returning from South Africa.

Lesotho health minister Semano Sekatle announced mandatory vaccination against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for every individual entering the country. This comes as thousands of Basotho workers who work in South Africa are expected to return for Christmas from second week of December.

South Africa has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases since a new variant Omicron was isolated in the country. At least over 400,000 Basotho work in South Africa, mostly in Gauteng province that has been badly affected by the ongoing surge. 

Those who have been vaccinated while in South Africa will be expected to produce proof upon arrival, he said. 

“Both members of the security and health professionals will be deployed everywhere at Lesotho’s legal and illegal borders posts,” the minister added. 

Returnees who cannot be checked at the border posts are expected to report to health facilities, village health workers and other community leaders upon arrival at their communities so that they can be transferred to where they will get tested as well as be vaccinated, Setkatle added. 

If a citizen chooses to not get vaccinated, the country will have no choice but to restrict movement, he said. 

Sekatle inspected the Maseru border post and indicated that he would be visiting three other high traffic border posts of Maputsoe, Botha Bothe, Teele, Qacha’ Nek and Sani Pass. Members of the Lesotho Defence Force and Lesotho Mounted Police Service will be deployed at both legal border posts and identified illegal posts.

At least 290,000 people — 14 per cent of Lesotho’s population — has been vaccinated.

“We are doing all in power to ensure we are not shocked by the fourth wave in December,” he said. Last December, the country battled a third wave which was driven by Basotho living in South Africa suddenly returning back home.

The minister noted that the country has not yet recorded any case of the Omicron variant. Its demographic location of being landlocked by South Africa made it appear on the travel ban list of African countries.

Sekatle said: 

We are shocked by the decision of high-income countries to suddenly ban traveling from our countries, particularly South Africa, which helped identify this new complex variant. This is an unfortunate sanction, especially on us who have not yet registered any case of the new variant. I supposed this is lesson to African country that ‘Afro-phobia’ and political discrimination is a reality that still exists. 

Lesotho invested in an inland oxygen plan after a devastating episode of high death rate last festive season.

The government of Lesotho, through the ministry of health alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) and Lesotho Millennium Development Agency launched a project to install a medical oxygen plant in Leribe at the Motebang hospital.

The country’s Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro indicated the COVID-19 crisis has helped Lesotho realise the need to produce its own oxygen.

“The plant is going to enable us to produce 40 cylinders of 50 litres capacity within 24 hours, said Majoro. 

This quantity will be sufficient enough in times when the demand is high, he added. “The quantity will further be augmented with additional purchases from other countries if and when our supply is overwhelmed.”

Lesotho has the ability to test for various types of variants through the National Referral Laboratory, the health minister noted. 

“Most travellers do not understand why they should get tested and be vaccinated upon arrival. However, they work tirelessly to make them see reason,” Maipato Sekasha Makhele, a nurse-in-charge at the Maseru border post vaccination testing station, said.  

She indicated that travellers are requested to show proof of COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours as well as a vaccination card. Those without a vaccination card will be encouraged to get vaccinated. 

Health personnel deployed at the different border posts work 24-hour shifts, she said, adding that the number of people they have to attend to per day during the festive season will go up to 30 from the normal 15.

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