Botswana’s first Covid-19 victim already buried, infection toll now at four

Botswana's first Covid-19 victim has been buried. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
Botswana's first Covid-19 victim has been buried. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

Delayed results led Botswana to believe the three Covid-19 coronavirus cases announced this week were the country’s first, but a life had already been lost to the virus.

It emerged last night that Botswana had already recorded its first Covid-19 death, which put the country’s infection toll at four. The victim was buried this weekend.

The first Covid-19 case, which took nearly two weeks to be confirmed, was announced on Botswana’s national television station BTV by the country’s Deputy President Slumber Tsogwane on Tuesday night.

Although Tsogwane said the country wasn’t yet certain what it was dealing with, health personnel had left nothing to chance and had taken precautionary measures when they treated the 79-year-old woman from Ramotswa outside Gaborone.

She was admitted to hospital after she “started showing symptoms and later developed a fever on March 21”.

The woman died a week after she returned from South Africa. She had attended a funeral in Motswedi, a village close to Zeerust in North West. 

Tsogwane said it was noted that the deceased had also had other medical conditions.

Although not being clear if she had sought medical attention or was seen by a medical officer on arrival in Botswana on March 15, Tsogwane said that when she returned from Motswedi she was quarantined at home before being taken to Bamalete Lutheran Hospital.

“She was examined in the accident and emergency unit and put under mandatory quarantine where she died on March 25. 

Her burial was conducted with the necessary precautions taken when someone is suspected to have a highly infectious disease,” Tsogwane said.

“Contact tracing is underway. So far 14 people have been identified, quarantined and tested for Covid-19. Results are awaited.”

Botswana's vice-president Slumber Tsogwane. Picture: Getty Images

It took 10 days from the day the deceased was admitted to hospital on March 21 before her Covid-19 tests results came back as positive. 

The delay in the outcome of the test was not explained, but Tsogwane gave an update on three recent Covid-19 cases where the turn-around time for results was three to four days.

“The first case is a 47-year-old male Motswana who came from Basingstoke. He had travelled to the United Kingdom on the February 29 and returned on March 21. At the time of arrival the patient was asymptomatic,” Tsogwane said.

“The patient developed a fever and cough, was short of breath and was swabbed on March 28. The patient was tested at the national health laboratory and also referred to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa.”

His results came back two days later with two others – a couple in their early 40s, who had travelled to Thailand on March 10 and returned to Botswana on March 20, connecting at Dubai and OR Tambo International Airport before landing at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone.

“The lady developed a sore throat, was coughing and had a headache. She was swabbed on March 27 and was tested at the national health laboratory and also referred to the NICD in South Africa,” Tsogwane said.

He said the man was also coughing, had a temperature of 37.8°C and was swabbed on the same date as his partner.

READ: Covid-19: Botswana announces 'extreme' lockdown days after banning sale of alcohol

On Tuesday, Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced an “extreme lockdown” for 28 days and declared a state of emergency “until further notice” as the country escalated its fight against Covid-19. 

The landlocked country has a population of about 2.4 million.

The government said this week on social media platforms that it had 1 901 people in quarantine with 259 suspected Covid-19 cases; 90 results had come out negative and it was waiting for 166 results.

It was not clear whether the patients in the three cases were part of those placed in quarantine on arrival from other countries because they returned home around the same time the government was taking people from land borders and airports straight to quarantine.

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