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May 14, 2021

STAFF REPORTER

3 min read

Are Basotho in India out of the woods?

Are Basotho in India out of the woods?

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THE devastation experienced in India caused by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic is truly mind-blowing to say the least.

The death of around 4 000 people a day from the novel coronavirus in one country is something to shake any sane person out of their wits.

Statistics show that the south Asian country accounts for one in three of the reported deaths from COVID-19 around the world and there is no doubt that its health system is astounded, notwithstanding donations of oxygen cylinders and other equipment from all over the world. 

The reassurance of our Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations ’Matšepo Ramakoae that Lesotho nationals living in India are safe in the middle of the catastrophe is not necessarily convincing.

The bulk of Basotho living and studying in India is in the capital New Delhi. A great number of them is based in universities and the Lesotho embassy in the same city where there are about 150 embassies or high commissions and 18 other representations in India.

The city had 348 421 new COVID-19 reported cases by Tuesday May 11. But reports of overwhelmed crematoriums and cemeteries as well as a growing number of obituaries in local papers suggest the official figures undercount the true death toll.

The country is currently in total shutdown in a bid to curb the skyrocketing infection.

This goes to show that the 85 Lesotho nationals in India are in an intense situation and they urgently require rescuing.

But the foreign affairs minister is adamant that their repatriation is out of question, as they are scattered across the length and breadth of the country.

Three Basotho living there were reported to have contracted the disease but have since recovered. Currently there are no known numbers of Basotho who have the virus in India.

The question is, how long will the status quo be maintained if those people cannot be relocated immediately, because another challenge is, there are no flights in and out of the country?

Maybe like the minister suggests, the best way is for them to remain wherever they are in order to eradicate chances of spreading the virus.

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Despite the devastating experience, India has one of the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination programmes and is home of the world’ biggest producer of COVID vaccines, Bharat Biotech, which produces an indigenous vaccine called Covidshield.

In a good show of strong diplomatic ties that India has with Lesotho, Ramakoae says India has promised to donate a total of 36 000 doses of the COVID vaccine to its less successful partner Lesotho.

This is in spite of the challenges the Asian country is facing to contain its COVID-19 situation.

However, the situation in India needs close monitoring because we are all keen to know what the fate of our fellow countrymen holed up in that country will be.   

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