Botswana Coronavirus update (19/03/20)

De Beers sight to go ahead despite travel ban

De Beers’ upcoming sight in Botswana will still take place despite the country’s ban on arrivals from the US, China, India and Belgium, the miner has confirmed.

“While this is an extraordinary situation and COVID-19 has had an impact, our customers continue to express some demand for rough diamonds and have communicated their desire for the sight to proceed,” a spokesperson for De Beers told Rapaport News Tuesday.

On Monday, Botswana suspended entry to visitors from countries it considers high-risk due to the coronavirus outbreak. Those also include Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. The government has ordered its own citizens to enter a 14-day quarantine when returning from these locations. Botswana hasn’t reported any cases of the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

Amid the restrictions, De Beers is looking into “innovative” ways of enabling sales at the sight, which was due to run from March 30 to April 3 in Gaborone, it said.

“The consistency and predictability of De Beers Group’s rough-diamond products enable customers to have the option to purchase products unseen,” the company continued. “We are also looking at how best to meet each customer’s current requirements through other flexibility measures which will be communicated to them in the coming days.”

At the previous sale in February, De Beers allowed sightholders to defer purchases of goods destined for the Chinese market. However, since then, the virus has spread further in the US and Europe, leading to a global industry slowdown. 

De Beers looking at contingency plans after diamonds buyers face Botswana travel ban

DE BEERS intended to press ahead with its next round of diamond sales planned for March 30 despite buyers being prevented from inspecting the goods in person, said Bloomberg News.

Botswana has imposed a travel ban on foreigners from certain countries as a measure intended to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This means that some of De Beers’ customers from places such as China and India – which have been included in the travel ban – will be prevented from inspecting diamonds held for sale. De Beers conducts ten such ‘sights’ a year in its Gaborone offices, Botswana, of which the March event is the third in the firm’s 2020 financial year.

Citing a De Beers statement, Bloomberg News said:

“Our intention remains to hold the sight, in line with the desire for it go ahead expressed by customers, but we are developing a suite of contingency plans in the event that it is not possible to hold the sight in the usual manner”.

These plans could include having local representatives of buyers attend the sight or by holding a “blind sight” in which buyers don’t see the goods they are buying, said the newswire.

De Beers is set to hold an emergency meeting with the government next week, the Botswana Guardian newspaper reported, citing Minerals Minister Lefoko Moagi.

The COVID-19 outbreak has come at a terrible time for the diamond industry following poor trading conditions in 2019. De Beers made its smallest profit in more than a decade last year after a glut of rough and polished stones destroyed margins for the industry’s crucial middlemen who cut, polish and trade them, said Bloomberg News.

Gaborone-based diplomat suspected to have Coronavirus

ABSA bank on Monday reported a suspected case of coronavirus to health authorities after a diplomat showed symptoms of the virus while visiting the bank. An executive at Absa (known to this publication), said a diplomat visited one of their branches suspected to be showing symptoms of the much-feared coronavirus disease (COVID-19). 

Concerned, some employees responded by alerting the Ministry of Health and Wellness response team who responded 20 minutes after the customer had already left the bank.

An insider within the bank said bank attendants who assisted the customer were placed on immediate isolation as per the guidelines of the COVID-19 response protocols from the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Lemogang Kwape, confirmed his ministry was investigating such a case during a telephone interview. He said the rapid response team was deployed to the scene as per their response protocol. The incident is said to have sent shock waves across the bank’s entire executive board resulting in an urgent meeting at Headquarters on Tuesday.

Botswana had no officially declared positive cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday this week.

There is uneasiness in Botswana as the number of confirmed cases of the virus in neighbouring South Africa grow by the day with 116 confirmed cases reported as of 18 March 2020. 

Government closes schools 

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi told a press conference yesterday that the government had taken the precautionary measure to close “affected” schools. Dr Masisi also revealed Botswana was receiving assistance from the World Health Organisation and leaning on China as well. 

The President said at this moment, Botswana has not declared this a national disaster  but will  still treat it as a state of emergency as there’s been we no confirmed cases thus far.

Source: – – Botswana Government Facebook page – SundayStandard Facebook page

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