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In the Wealthy Affiliate blog post of the 3rd April 2020, titled “The UK, the FK and COVID-19”, I wrote about “the FK”, Lesotho, and indicated how at that stage it was one of only two inland African countries that were still COVID-19 free, with the other two countries being island countries. This scenario was brought about by the effectiveness of Social Distancing in the prevention of COVID-19 and other (respiratory) infectious diseases, which will be discussed in detail in this article.
Soon after that post of 3 April, the other inland African country, South Sudan, reported a handful of cases. It was soon followed by one of the island countries, Sao Tome & Principe.
In the past few days, the remaining island country of Africa, Comoros, reported COVID-19 invasion, and the tally as of the 5th May 2020, was 4 people.
As of close of business on 05/05/2020, the FK, Lesotho, was The Last Woman Standing in Africa, the only African country with no reported COVID-19 case. All specimens sent to the WHO regional reference laboratory in South Africa have been negative for Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Islands are the long-held bosses at the art of Social Distancing. They usually remain free of infections and infestations during epidemics. Africa has about a dozen island countries, and all have been invaded by COVID-19, leaving landlocked Lesotho, which is surrounded by South Africa, the African country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
(Pic: Ncatya’s Nek (“Qacha’s Nek”), Lesotho, one of the border areas with South Africa. The beautiful mountain to the right is just beyond the border, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa)
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WHAT HAS PROTECTED LESOTHO?
There will be many theories. I am going to advance my own theory, but would like to start by expressing utter surprise at the fact that the world, instead of taking notes from Lesotho and quickly applying the lessons to save the nations of the world, has found it more important to urgently investigate whether Lesotho really does not have COVID-19. Right now, 2 million test kits have been mobilised so as to test the country of 2 million citizens! These kits could be put to better use in heavily affected countries to identify infected individuals for infection control purposes and proper treatment. Using the test kits in South Africa, for example, would be more cost effective and would keep Lesotho Coronavirus-free for a long time because all the four leading South African provinces in COVID-19 (W Cape, Gauteng, KZN, E Cape), have strong trade and job market links with Lesotho. Furthermore, there was a serious incident of COVID-19 test kits that were destined for the UK, that were found to be contaminated with Coronavirus! It is reasonable to be uneasy about the test kits that are collected and sent to an African country that is COVID-19 free, and that will not be able to ascertain the safety and accuracy of the kits before they are distributed in the country and used.
Lesotho was for the most part of the second half of the Twentieth Century, seen as being a strategic point by the international anti-apartheid community. She was used for being in “the belly” of Apartheid South Africa, by all manner of activists, academics, cultural boycotters and military personnel. And immediately when that usefulness expired in the 1990s, with the political changes occurring in South Africa, Lesotho became dispensable. Almost all countries of the world, with the notable exception of the United States and China, withdrew their embassies and consulates from Lesotho, transferring them to Pretoria, South Africa. Aid of all kinds also dried up. But this was a blessing in disguise, from a COVID-19 perspective.
EPIDEMICS ARE FUELLED BY HUMAN MOVEMENT
Having studied General Science and Medical Science a generation ago, I now believe that pandemics might not have occurred, if there was no uncontrolled movement of humans across the globe as a result of warfare and other conflicts, and unnecessary international travel. The Spanish Flu pandemic was aided by “World War 1”. HIV and AIDS pandemic was also fuelled by the many civil wars and trans-country movements towards the close of the Twentieth Century. And as mentioned before, there was a lot of movement in and out of Lesotho in the 1970s and 1980s, which partially contributed in placing her among the three countries with the highest prevalence of HIV in the world.
(Pic: Mining in South Africa attracted about a quarter of Lesotho’s able bodied men in the Twentieth Century. Unfortunately, it is a devastating breeding ground for HIV and TB infections)
(Pic: There was incessant political turmoil in the world in the 1960s to the 1990s, and Lesotho was one of the worst affected countries, being also used as a pawn in the anti-apartheid efforts)
Lesotho has been saved by a turnaround in her fortunes, with the world practically forgetting her. At the other extreme, in neighbouring South Africa, the province with the highest amount of international tourism, the Western Cape, home to Robben Island and Table Mountain, is and has been the one with the highest number of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Per Hundred Thousand Population (CCCPHTP). This is the correct expression of disease cases (especially infectious diseases), rather than the absolute number. (In May 2020, the Western Cape has overtaken the Gauteng province even in terms of the absolute number of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases.)
If needs be, I will go into the issue of CCCPHTP in detail in a future post, and show how the most popular tourist provinces in South Africa have the highest burden, and how the least visited have the lowest CCCPHTP.
Suffice to say, the isolation of the tiny kingdom of Lesotho has given an important lesson on the effectiveness of Social Distancing, and that the global community had better approach the issue with a lot more seriousness.
And we should not be surprised if the FK, Lesotho, could be The Very Last Woman Standing, the last country on Earth to report a COVID-19 case.