Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest (Discontinued on 31 Aug 2020)

Situation Report
Lesotho — Trends

Government ramps up COVID-19 testing capacity

  • First case: 13 May

  • Total cases: 996 (as of 20 August 2020)

  • Total deaths: 30

  • Schools: Closed (579,807 learners affected)

  • Borders/Flights: All travellers are screened for coronavirus.

  • Containment measures: National Emergency declared 28 March, restricting all movements and closing all non-essential services.


As of 20 August, 996 people have contracted COVID-19 in the country and 14 have died, according to WHO. Lesotho can now test up to 2,000 people for COVID-19 per day, due to a new testing station that was launched by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro on 11 August. According to the Government spokesperson, the country has installed a new technology to operate the testing machines as the previous technology had created a backlog of unfinished COVID-19 tests. The National COVID-19 Secretariat (Nacosec) is also working to install PCR machines donated by the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC). The National Reference Laboratories (NRL) are working to verify the machines and to have them provide results within 24 hours.

Nacosec is planning to hire over 2,000 unemployed nurses to be deployed countrywide to support the COVID-19 response, according to media reports. The decision comes after the Coalition of Health Professionals reported that it is continuing the health worker strike that started in mid July, as they continue to negotiate with the Government regarding paid allowances and personal protective equipment for health-care workers.

Nacosec has tightened the enforcement of COVID-19 regulations and has directed bars to be closed and no funeral to be allowed after 10 a.m. Only immediate family members and 10 village people to dig the grave and cover it will be allowed to attend. Furthermore, district to district movement has been restricted except for essential services and work-related travel. Businesses, such as factory workers, are to work in shifts with precautionary measures in place.

All schools are closed, leaving an estimated 390,000 children without access to school meals, according to WFP. Since the beginning of the National State of Emergency on 28 March, the Prime Minister and Police Commissioner have called on law enforcement agencies to uphold people’s rights during the lockdown period. However, there have been reports of excessive use of force by security officers and the Government also informed about an increasing on criminal activities during the lockdown. On 18 April, the Prime Minister deployed the army onto streets to ‘restore peace and order’, claiming law enforcement institutions were undermining democracy. His announcement on national television came a day after the Constitutional Court overturned his 3-month suspension of Parliament as part of the coronavirus lockdown extension declared on 17 April, according to media reports.

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, more than a quarter of the population in Lesotho - over half a million people - were facing severe food insecurity as the result of a devastating drought. Humanitarian partners launched a Flash Appeal to respond to the most urgent and life-saving needs, which was just 10 per cent funded. Response:

  • A M700 million (approximately US$38.6 million) fund has been set aside for the National COVID-19 Response Integrated Plan 2020, more than half of which will be used for health care personnel and purchase of critical goods and services, with the remainder covering logistics, security, and border management.

Official sources:

Government of Lesotho webpage and COVID-19 National Command Centre

Other links:

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Policy Responses to COVID-19, by IMF