Botswana intends enforcing a longer ban on liquor sales than South Africa as the landlocked country braces itself for an “imminent lockdown”. The warning was made by President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Thursday.
South Africans spent Thursday preparing to retreat indoors for the 21-day lockdown that begins at midnight on Thursday.
No alcohol will be sold for 30 days from Saturday when Botswana’s lockdown begins.
Although Masisi recently conceded that it was only a matter of time before the Covid-19 coronavirus hit his country, his government was leaving nothing to chance even though it was yet to record its first positive case at the time of a media briefing by the government in Gaborone on Thursday.
The country’s strictness was displayed recently when Masisi was placed in self-isolation by the health department last Friday on arrival from his visit to neighbouring Namibia where several cases of Covid-19 have been recorded.
Masisi was expected to be tested for the virus at the end of 14 days in isolation during which he would, according to his government, be kept in a state house away from his family.
Kabo Morwaeng, Botswana’s minister of presidential affairs, set the record straight on Thursday after “fake news” claimed Masisi had tested positive for the virus.
He said the reports were not true and that Masisi was in self-isolation as per precautionary measures decided upon for everyone coming into the country.
“We’re not saying he is sick … he is okay. He is leading by example,” Morwaeng said.
Self-isolation in the wake of global terror caused by the deadly virus has not stopped the president from being actively involved in the fight against its spread.
He used alternative methods to stay in touch with citizens, saying in a message posted on Botswana’s government Facebook page: “Please prepare yourselves for the imminent lockdown. Our experts, led by Dr Masupu and Professor Alexandra advise us to restrict the movement of people so we are better able to trace and treat any case that occurs.
“Take heed of and follow health professionals’ advice and instructions. Wash your hands with soap and water. Do not argue and be difficult because that does not help prevent Covid-19. Protect yourself and everyone else. Look after the old and young. God bless Botswana!”
Meanwhile, Peggy Serame, Botswana’s trade and investment minister, announced at the same briefing on Thursday that the government had taken a resolution to enforce a ban on the sale of alcohol for 30 days, as part of its ongoing precautionary measures to combat the possible spread of the virus.
The announcement came just days after restaurants and bars were ordered to shut down, leaving only bottle stores operating. Serame said consumers had until Friday before the 30-day alcohol sale ban kicked in.
She hinted at a possible extension to the 30-day alcohol drought, saying the situation would be assessed at the end of that period. Another announcement would follow.
Botswana has already been hard at work trying to prevent the virus from entering the country. Morwaeng said: “The government has put in measures to restrict travelling both in and out of the country and those coming from affected and high-risk countries will be put in quarantine. This gives all of us an opportunity to take responsibility as individuals and communities to combat and slow down the spread of the virus because keeping Botswana safe starts with us as individuals.”
The quarantine of those entering Botswana through airports and land ports did not, however, start on a good note amid allegations by those taken into forced isolation on arrival that they were kept under bad conditions that could risk infections and spread the virus.
A family member of one of those in quarantine took government to court to seek better conditions for their loved one and others kept with her. The media in Botswana said those in quarantine had complained about poor and unhygienic conditions, no running water, no soap and a generally unclean environment.
The high court in Lobatse ordered the government on Tuesday to “provide segregated, sanitary and hygienic conditions with proper infection control and all protection to [the applicant’s relative] and others in quarantine”. City Press has seen the order.
It was reported in the media that people had been moved from the initial places where they were quarantined into hotels and lodges.
Serame said some hospitality companies had offered rooms for free as part of their contribution.
Serame said the government was still considering other restrictions – such as the closure of some businesses and shops. But a decision had been taken that no one could sit down and eat in restaurants, they could only get takeaways.
She said Botswana could experience some delays in the delivery of some imported goods because of the restricted cross-border movements.
But she said Botswana would continue to receive goods from countries where it has trade routes, such as South Africa despite the latter’s lockdown and closure of borders.