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Botswana declares state of emergency, goes on lockdown

Botswana President, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, Photo credit []

Botswana declares state of emergency, goes on lockdown

31 March 2020

Kago Komane

Botswana’s President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, placing the country on lockdown for 28 days from April 2.

This followed Botswana’s first three confirmed cases of coronavirus infection yesterday. However, the country has 259 suspected cases and 1 909 people in quarantine

Last week the government began placing people arriving from abroad in a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Masisi said the threat to Botswana has escalated given the rise in confirmed cases in  neighbouring countries.

He said a challenge in Botswana is the low rate of testing and cumbersome health protocols. The return of citizens and residents from high-risk countries had also increased the threat of infection.

Masisi announced that Parliament will convene in seven days “to give direction”.

Further measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, based on the Public Health Act and the Constitution, are expected.

Masisi said that during the lockdown, everyone in Botswana is expected to adhere to strict social distancing.

He added that the government is drafting regulations under the Emergency Powers Act empowering him to take such steps as he considers necessary to secure public safety and the maintenance of public order, and to maintain supplies and services essential to the lives of Batswana.

Movement away from the home will be restricted to those performing essential services and transporting essential goods, who will be issued government travel permits.

Botswana’s minister of health and wellness, Lemogang Kwape, took to the country’s national broadcaster BTV last night to announce that two men and a woman, who had either travelled to Thailand or the UK, had tested positive for the virus

Kwape said the three are being kept in isolation at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital in Gaborone and are in good health.

“We have now moved from prevention to containment,” he said.

Kwape called on citizens to follow all the precautionary measures already put in place by Botswana’s health authorities such as washing hands with soap and maintaining social distance. Botswana also banned the sale of alcohol for 30 days from March 28.

 Masisi said the government’s interventions, including the provision of psychosocial support to those affected, would be funded from the Covid-19 Relief Fund,

The aim was to give support to certain workers, stabilise businesses, ensure the availability of strategic supplies and explore opportunities for economic diversification.

He said government will provide a wage subsidy for civilian employees of businesses worst affected by the disease, to enable them to retain employees.

“To give businesses some cash-flow relief, government will guarantee loans by commercial banks to businesses mostly affected by Covid-19.

“We will give eligible businesses … access to credit to support for ongoing operations in conditions where credit becomes more difficult to obtain and give tax concessions to businesses in eligible sectors.”

The number of people infected by the virus is 700 000 global with 34 000 deaths, according to figures from John Hopkins University.

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