Batswana defy extreme isolation order, travel home to their villages
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi on Thursday imposed a nationwide extreme social distancing order to curb the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus throughout Botswana. The president urged the nation to limit travel and instead, self-isolate wherever they are.
Worryingly, ahead of the extreme social distancing kicking off at midnight on Thursday, social media platforms were awash with videos of people heading north in their droves, presumably to go home to their respective villages.
So far, Botswana has had four confirmed Coronavirus cases, all in the south. With hundreds of Batswana ignoring calls to stay put, opting instead to travel north, the possibility of what could potentially happen if any of them turn out to be Coronavirus positive is too scary to contemplate. It’s comforting, however, that since extreme social distancing took effect, there’s been countless pictures shared on social media platforms showing deserted towns all over Botswana. For the most part, people are observing the precautionary guidelines. It is also comforting to observe that both the police and military have been deployed to ensure that people are not just loitering or being a nuisance.
The Minister of Transport and Communications, Thulagano Segokgo on Wednesday revealed during a media briefing in Gaborone public transport (buses, mini-buses (combis) and taxis) would be heavily reduced for the duration of the state of emergency period. He said an exception would be made for operators with COVID-19 permits to transport essential service workers who would still need to work. He explained that the passengers would also be issued special permits. This special dispensation will also be extended to citizens and residents who have a pressing need to travel.
Minister Segokgo said no passenger planes and trains would be allowed to operate. But flights carrying cargo, goods trains as well as trucks carrying essential goods into the country or in transit would continue to operate, on condition that they observe the necessary COVID-19 precautions. The minister stated only four airports would remain open to service the planes transporting freight in and out of the country- Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, Francistown’s PG Matante International Airport, Kasane Airport and Maun Airport.
The Ministry will stop issuing temporary road permits, drivers licenses, the conversion of foreign driver licenses, roadworthiness certification, as well as theory or practical tests for drivers licenses during this time. Minister Segokgo clarified that drivers would be penalised for not renewing permits in the current circumstances.
Fuel reserves secured, electricity tariffs hiked
The Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Lefoko Moagi this week announced that Botswana Oil had ordered 3 million litres of fuel to ensure that even if the borders were to be completely closed, the country would have sufficient fuel reserves to last 15 days.
Minister Moagi said that while the fuel cost would go down, the electricity tariffs would go up to ensure that the country is able to sufficiently provide power during this crucial period. Moagi further said mines were expected to continue operating through this period.
Meantime – 26 have been put in quarantine in Gumare
Gumare Primary Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Dr Bokwena Moali stated in an interview on Thursday that 26 people, all Botswana citizens, had been placed in quarantine in Gumare. They reportedly entered Botswana from Namibia through the Mohembo border post.
She said they were all being monitored and so far, none of them had shown any COVID-19. Dr Moali, however, said the District Health Management Team continued to receive people from Namibia through Mohembo border post every day. Quarantine centres at Gumare include Semo Hotel with four quarantined clients, Makgovango with 16, while Executive Inn has 6 clients.
So far, Botswana has tested 670 people; with 562 testing negative and four positive. Out of the four who tested positive, one, a 79-year-old woman, has since died. A total of 2 001 people are quarantined at various facilities, with 291 are under home quarantine – Dr Lebapotswe Tlale (Ministry of Health and Wellness).