Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi has declared a state of emergency to be in place until further notice starting with an “extreme lockdown” beginning in two days as the country grapples the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Masisi announced this in Botswana on Tuesday following Monday night’s confirmation of three cases of Covid-19.
This comes at the time when South Africans were counting down 16 days before the lockdown ends on April 16, although there were no certainties on whether it would be extended or not as the number of new Covid-19 cases continues to rise daily.
Botswana also announced their lockdown following Zimbabwe’s 21-day lockdown which began on Monday.
Masisi said the decision was not only because of Botswana’s first Covid-19 cases but was also influenced by the state of affairs in neighbouring states.
“The threat to Botswana has escalated considerably in view of the fact that our neighbouring countries have seen a rapid rise in confirmed cases, some of which have resulted in fatalities. The other challenge is the low rate of testing of suspected cases in Botswana and cumbersome health protocols,” he said.
“The return of some of our citizens and residents from high risk countries has also escalated the threat of the virus in our country. Therefore, after consultations with relevant stakeholders, it has become clear to me that it is necessary to declare a State of Public Emergency for the purpose of taking appropriate and stringent measures to address the risks posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Masisi went on to explain why he decided on a state of emergency until further notice when the Constitution empowers him to declare one that ceases after 21 days.
“I have considered that proceeding in this manner would not allow for consultation and buy-in across the political spectrum because this pandemic knows no political boundaries. I have also considered that 21 days would not be sufficient to employ the necessary measures to fight this pandemic,” he said.
The president further announced extreme physical distancing also commencing on April 2.
“Whilst the state of emergency is in place, there shall also be extreme social distancing commencing on April 2 2020 at midnight for a period of 28 days. This decision was by no means taken lightly. I am convinced that I make it in the best interest of our nation,” Masisi said.
“During this period of extreme lockdown all individuals across the country will be expected to adhere to a more severe form of social distancing where movement out of the home is only restricted to those performing essential services and transporting essential goods.”
Throughout this period, I urge you all to remember to stay home, wash your hands with soap and sanitize and seek medical attention if with symptoms of COVID-19.— Dr. Mokgweetsi E.K Masisi (@OfficialMasisi) March 31, 2020
We are together in this and we shall prevail. Please let’s all stay united and strong. God bless our country. ???????? pic.twitter.com/kow0OscQg5
Different departments were expected to clarify how things would work during the lockdown which gives Botswana citizens just two days to do most of what they need to do before retreating into their homes.
Meanwhile, City Press was yet to hear an update on the three Covid-19 cases in Botswana after the country’s health minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape, took to the country’s national broadcaster, BTV, on Monday night to make the announcement.
“In all those who were tested, two males and a female tested positive. Two of the three have been to Thailand while the other one has been to the UK,” Kwape said.
He said Botswana had in the past three weeks preached prevention when it had not recorded even a single positive Covid-19 case, but things have now changed and the country had moved to a simultaneous “prevention and containment” stage.
Botswana has, as part of its preventive measures, banned the sale of alcohol for 30 days since Saturday.
The government said on Monday 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 they were still awaiting 166 results.
It was not clear whether the trio that tested positive were part of those kept in quarantine.
Last week, the government started taking people coming in from other countries into a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival at land and airports.
They were only to be released once they tested negative for the virus at the end of the quarantine period.
President Masisi would also end his 14-day self-isolation after attending a meeting in Namibia over a week ago.