By: Thandiwe Kubere

In the wake of epidemics, it is essential that people abide by precautions as advised by health experts and care providers. The past years have raised questions of whether lives are really safe in the hands of health care services and if the systems are good enough. Therefore, in an effort to saves lives, the ministry of Health availed Covid-19 vaccines to ensure that Basotho are not at high risk of losing their lives should they be in contact with the virus.

Following on that approach, launched in December the previous year, the Test-to-Treat approach was designed for health facilities to provide “one-stop shop” early detection of symptomatic COVID-19 infection by rapid antigen testing and treatment with approved oral antiviral medications.

The Test and Treat approach was designed for individuals who; test positive for Covid 19, are within 5 days of symptom onset, and meet the clinical criteria for receiving oral therapeutics. This is because T2T oral pills only treat people who have Mild to moderate Covid 19 symptoms..

Jhpiego’s Technical Advisor, Dr Tiiso Lekhela  advised people to seek medical attention at health care facilities close to them as soon as they experience flu-like symptoms or those associated with Covid 19, so that they can easily be treated and get back to good health after just a couple of days.

She explained that this is because unlike other chronic diseases, Covid 19 affects people and makes change in just a short period of time, hence the need to detect and treat it early before it becomes severe and takes a toll on one’s body.

The two day media training workshop on health promotion, organized by the Ministry of Health in partnership with Jhpiego revealed that Lesotho has had at least 219 cases of COVID-19 between September 2023 and February 2024. This was according to the statistics collected from seven hospitals across the country in preparation of the T2T implementation program.

Dr. Lekhela highlighted that at least 33 patients tested positive for COVID-19, of which 18 were prescribed and initiated on Antivirals September 2023. Moreover, 78 cases were detected in November, with 53 of them receiving treatment. Again, 13 people tested positing in December, and six of them were initiated on antivirals.

She noted that the low numbers observed in December as compared to other months, could be attributed to fewer people seeking medical attention because of the festive season and the increased staff leave.

“In January 2024, statistics revealed 35 cases detected, with 22 of them prescribed and initiated on antivirals. In February 2024, one case was found, but treatment initiation did not occur,” she elaborated.

Dr. Lekhela therefore, highlighted that T2T was inspired by realizing that the country is ill-burdened with the virus and many lives got lost during the course of the epidemic. “During that time when Covid 19 cases peaked, the country only had two treatment centers such that we struggled to place other patients because the centers were full. We then realized that it is much safer to treat patients when they are still mild to moderate because it is simpler and less costly to do so. Moreover, research which was conducted in other countries reveals that T2T is safe and does not have intense side effects.

“Just like any other medication one takes, there are mild side effects like mild headache or drowsiness, which may only last for a few hours. As health care providers, our intention is never to harm, but to ensure the well-being of our communities. Covid-19 still exists and is still a health threat, so restrictions and precautions still needs to be adhered to”, said Dr. Lekhela.

She further assured that health centers were sensitized about the T2T oral pills so that patients from different facilities are safely and appropriately transferred to the ten selected facilities so that they are quickly attended to. The ten selected facilities for T2T admiration are; Machebeng Hospital in Qacha, Berea Hospital, Paray Hospital, Quthing Hospital, Mokhotlong Hospital, Butha-Buthe Hospital, Motebang Hospital and Queen II Hospital

“Every action a person takes should be for their well-being and good health. People will always talk, in either a good or a bad way when something new comes up. Nonetheless, one should not compromise on saving their lives because of what people without expertise say. I took the Covid 19 vaccine and it saved my life”, said Kaneli Lephesang, a villager at Sekhutloaneng in Thaba Bosiu, Maseru.  This he said in an interview during a field study in Thaba Bosiu.

Kaneli summoned courage amidst the misinformation which is going on around his village, which included that one would turn into a monkey days after taking the shots and that the vaccines were foreigners’ ways of trying to “steal” the country by killing all the natives. “I saw how much Covid killed our people, I witnessed men fall and become vulnerable due to the virus and it really gave me a fright. So I had to take the chance that was given- free of charge, for my well-being and that of my family. I encountered few side effects of the vaccine but they only lasted for a short period and now I am well and healthy”, he said.

Another villager of Ha Morena Mafa Mafa, Thaba Bosiu, Sechaba Papea expressed that he also took the vaccine after observing and noticing that similarly to other epidemics the country has battled before, including the likes of Malaria, Measles, HIV/AIDS and others, there were always myths and negative opinions circulating about vaccines or medication when in actual fact they did a lot of good. “I got vaccinated and I did not turn into a monkey as others said we would. I am still a normal person and I do not have a microchip which controls me. People died because they listened to statements which did not even have proof”, he said.