No cases of coronavirus have been confirmed within the borders of Botswana as yet, the Minister of Health and Wellness, Lemogang Kwape, told a full council meeting in Maun this week.
Addressing the North West District council on Wednesday, Kwape said currently, there are three suspected cases of Coronavirus that are still awaiting laboratory results from neighbouring South Africa.
“What is important right now is for us to continue practising precautionary measures to avoid infection. Wash your hands often as a hygienic measure, cover your mouths when coughing or sneezing,” Kwape advised.
By this Friday when President Mokgweetsi Masisi gave an update, there were still no confirmed Coronavirus cases.
Botswana, Angola close borders for officials amid Covid-19
Botswana and Angola have rolled out policies to suspend overseas trips by officials to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 into their countries. Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Thursday suspended overseas trips for the country’s officials due to worries over the spread of coronavirus.
In a note to the media on Thursday, the Angolan presidency announced a similar decision, citing the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Wednesday decision to declared the COVID-19 a pandemic. In a live address on national television, Masisi said his government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure Botswana remains free from the highly virulent disease.
“I wish to inform the nation that as a precautionary measure, the government has decided to suspend external trips by public officers, including the hosting of international events and conferences, until further notice,” announced Masisi.
Masisi urged all local organisations, businesses and institutions to adopt the same measure to prevent the virus from reaching Botswana. According to Masisi, exceptions to the policy will be examined on a case by case basis.
“Whether we like it or not, it is only a matter of time before the coronavirus arrives in Botswana,” Masisi said, also stressing the importance for the southern African country to “constantly refresh knowledge about this disease.”
On Friday, the President said the ban applies to international trips by public servants and international delegates who may wish to come and attend meetings and conferences in Botswana. He said while the disease was being contained in China, it was spreading rapidly worldwide and therefore, required that Botswana put measures in place to keep it at bay.
Masisi said all 14 suspected cases in Botswana have all tested negative. He said the government has designated several hospitals across the country in preparation for any potential outbreak of the disease. He said the World Health Organisation had trained 21 local laboratory scientists so that tests can be conducted locally. He assured the country that his government was prepared to deal with the outbreak of the virus.
Evacuation plan for Batswana in Wuhan finalised
The Ministry of Health and Wellness has finalised a repatriation plan for the 25 Batswana locked inside China, Mmegi reported Friday. According to the publication, the documents are now awaiting Cabinet approval.
This despite China’s Ambassador to Botswana Dr. Zhao Yanbo saying during a recent online press conference that some countries have seen imported cases from the evacuees and that the World Health Organization has recommended it is best to stay put to avoid cross-infection. China has reported declining numbers of the novel Coronavirus in the country.
“Wuhan has already closed all the temporary hospitals considering the number of remaining cases is limited. Hubei Province, excluding Wuhan city, reports no new cases since 5th March. The daily new confirmed cases outside Hubei caused by local transmission has fallen to nearly zero for days because all the new cases are imported ones, ” said Yanbo.
The idea of evacuating Botswana citizens out of China has divided the nation, with some insisting they should wait out the lockdown in China to guard against risking the lives of people in Botswana. Those in support of the evacuation say the evacuees can be tested before their departure and quarantined on arrival to avoid any possible local transmission.