Lesotho’s Finance Minister, Moeketsi Majoro says although the country has not yet recorded any COVID-19 case, he still remains unconvinced and has so far sent 23 tests to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa.
“I’m not confident at all and I am not convinced that there are no COVID-19 cases in Lesotho,” he said.
18 of the 23 tests have come back negative. The country will know the results of the five remaining samples in about three days.
The finance minister also urges Lesotho citizens in South Africa and China not to return home as he fears that if the coronavirus outbreaks in the kingdom, hospitals would not be able to treat more than 100 patients.
The country also lacks testing capacity.
Prime Minister Tom Thabane declared a state of emergency as a precaution and Mr. Majoro announced a raft of measures to keep the economy afloat.
$54 million has been allocated and a little more than half of that will go into a contributory fund that the government has started and is now requesting donors to assist with.
The country is prioritizing food security and $10.7 million will be spent on agriculture for food production, while vulnerable groups, including the elderly and informal traders, will receive grants.
The country’s highest private-sector employer is textiles, which employs 45,000 workers. The government will pay them a subsidy of $430 monthly for three months.
The government will also pay business rentals in May and defer business and employee tax until September. Majoro says this is expected to ease cash flow for all tax compliant enterprises, and they will agree with the Lesotho Revenue Authority on how to stagger their payments when the lockdown is lifted.
“We are going to need a lot of money to provide this support, my initial estimate is that we are going to need two to three billion maloti to deal with the impact of COVID-19 by the end of the financial year,” Majoro said.