Lesotho reported its first COVID-19 case on May 14, 2020, and cases have been rising since then (source: https://COVID 19.who.int/region/afro/country/ls). Lesotho created an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate the response to COVID-19 and adopted a range of containment measures, including social distancing, travel restrictions, declaration of a national state of emergency, closure of borders to all but essential goods, closure of schools, extension of initial 21-day lockdown of the country for two weeks (until May 5) and suspension of some businesses (e.g. gyms, hair/beauty parlors, arcades, liquor stores, etc.). The Ministry of Health has developed a Preparedness and Response Plan. The Government has developed the National COVID-19 Response Integrated Plan 2020 in collaboration with development partners.
On July 29, 2020, the IMF Executive Board approved SDR 34.9 million (50 percent of quota) in emergency financial assistance under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and the Rapid Financial Instrument (RFI) to support authorities’ efforts in addressing the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government committed in its Letter of Intent requesting the emergency financing from the IMF to implement specific measures on transparency and accountability of COVID-related spending.
Reopening of the economy. The lockdown of the country was relaxed since May 5, 2020.Private businesses (non-essential) gradually reopened but some (e.g., alcohol) followed WHO’s recommendations. The lockdown was lifted on May 19, 2020, albeit with compulsory use of masks in public spaces and restrictions in high-risk sectors such as tourism, sit-in restaurants, entertainment and assembly of more than 50 people.Public servants already went back to work but practice social distancing. Schools have reopened gradually under the guidance of ministry of education.
However, since December 2020, COVID-19 infections and death tolls have increased sharply, the alert level has been raised twice from "Blue" to "Purple" to "Orange" within one week (December 29, 2020–January 4, 2021). The alert level was further raised to the highest "Red" level, triggering a second full national lockdown from January 14, initially for 2 weeks, and subsequently extended until February 3, 2021. The alert level was lowered back to "Orange" on February 4, 2021, with most of the restrictions remaining in place on various political, religious, and social gatherings, as well as businesses and recreational activities. All schools were closed, and a curfew was put in place. Borders, including airports, were closed, except for the movement of essential goods and services. Following a decrease in positivity rates, the alert level was lowered on March 1 from "Orange" to "Purple". On April 27, 2021, the alert level was further lowered to "Blue" with lighter restrictions. Schools have reopened with COVID protocols. International travel has also resumed, and businesses have been granted longer hours of operation, including accommodations facilities in the tourism industry and public recreational areas. Moreover, entertainment and sporting activities are set to resume, albeit with some restrictions, as well as political rallies, which have been banned since March 2020. The sale of alcohol is still restricted, and a curfew remains in place.
Vaccine DevelopmentLesotho received the first batch of 36,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines under the COVAX facility on March 3, 2021, and the roll-out to vaccinate health professionals with the first batch has been underway nationally since March 10, 2021. As of April 22, 2021, 20,267 Basotho have already been vaccinated, including government leaders, members of parliament and health workers. The Government has paid a deposit of LSL25 million to procure 1.1 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which are expected to arrive in May 2021. The second batch of 36,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines under the COVAX facility was—donated by France—was delivered on May31. The total vaccines via the COVAX facility are eventually expected to cover 20 percent of the population, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected to cover the next 40 percent. A private sector-led initiative has raised over LSL40 billion for vaccine procurement of Russian Sputnik V vaccine. However, the Ministry of Health refused to authorize this on grounds that the vaccine has not been approved by WHO.