Botswana Coronavirus Update (25/03/20): Chinese coronavirus suspect causes chaos

Ministry of Health assures the public of safety

A Chinese man was on Tuesday at the centre of scenes of chaos and confusion that broke out in Phakalane as police arrived to investigate why he was living in a warehouse.

As police swooped on the property, the Chinese national, who has since been identified as Lin Xuenyang, bolted out of a goods container parked in the warehouse and took to off running.

Pandemonium ensued as curious but scared onlookers were torn between watching from a safe distance and arresting Xuenyang as he jumped into a Toyota Fortuner and drove off at high speed, with the police giving chase.

A woman, who tipped off the police from the warehouse next to where the Chinese man was hiding, told The Voice newspaper that she became suspicious when she realised a man living in a container being fed through a window.

“It went on for three days. Another Chinese man would come, stand by the window, hand over food and leave, only to do the same again at the next mealtime,” said the informer.

An employee at the warehouse revealed the man had recently arrived in the country from China.

“We have learnt that his brother was advised to quarantine him for 14 days, but now he is out and gone after only three days,” said the concerned woman.

However, last Wednesday evening, the Chief Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Doreen Motshegwa assured the public that the Chinese man was caught and put back into self-quarantine.

“We did get the tip-off and went to investigate. Fortunately, when we got there, we found out that this is a man who got into our country legally. He was screened for Coronavirus and it was confirmed that he did not have any signs of the virus. 

He was, however, coming from a country that was affected, so we advised him to home quarantine for 14 days. We shall keep on checking on him every day to make sure he did as advised.”

Meanwhile, the imported container caused panic and pandemonium as people complained that it might have imported the virus and demanded it be sanitised.

Dr. Ntoni of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, however, assured the public that the virus only survives for 8-12hrs outside a human body or on surfaces before it dies, adding goods take several days to arrive in Botswana from China, giving the virus time to die before the container arrived.

For his part, Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Dipheko Motube said, “As the police, we are ready to protect the nation mentally and logistically if the need arises.”

The Coronavirus, which broke out in Wuhan, China in December, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Whilst the unprecedented disease has brought much of the western world to its knees, Botswana, which has not registered a single case of the virus, has readied itself for any eventuality, banning public gatherings, cancelling conferences, closing borders from countries battling the virus and mobilising health and government officials for action.

In other updates…

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of Coronavirus, in Botswana, it would appear the message has yet to take root. Yesterday police sirens and helicopters could be heard throughout Tlokweng for hours on end. It would later emerge that a situation involving Botswana residents returning from South Africa and elsewhere around the world had escalated at the Tlokweng border.  

Botswana residents continue ignore the government pleas to limit movement by crossing into neighbouring South Africa, reportedly to renew their Dstv subscriptions and buy stock for their small businesses. Even as the government continues to spread awareness via various social media platforms, radio and tv; and amid exploding global statistics, many of them claim ignorance.

A video released this morning showed the Minister of Health, Dr. Lemogang Kwape addressing the travellers, some of whom appeared to be pushing back. The government has now resolved to quarantine them either the Ministry of Health established Institute of Health Sciences  facility at the border or the Institute of Development Management premises.

In the last 30 minutes, it has also emerged that leading law firm, Armstrongs is taking the  Botswana government to court to challenge the legality of quarantines to control coronavirus.  A senior partner of the firm is reportedly among the people quarantined as he entered Botswana from a neighbouring country.


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