Thursday, June 4, 2020

Botswana braces for a COVID-19 lock down

Batswana were this week biting their nails in anticipation of a lockdown after government announced new sweeping measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.  

The Director of Health Services Malaki Tshipayagae on Friday declared coronavirus a Public Health Emergency.

Tshipayagae signalled the commencement of a possible lockdown through a Government Gazette notice dated 25th March 2020.

The notice states “in exercerise of the powers conferred on the Director of Health Services by section 23 of the Public Health Act, the following Orders is hereby made;

This Order may be cited as the Public health (Declaration of a Public Health Emergency) Order, 2020 and shall commence on 27 March, 2020.

“It is hereby declared that a public health emergency exists, in order to minimise the risk and possible spread of the COVID-19(coronavirus),” reads the notice in part.

According to Section 23, “The Director may, by Order published in the Gazette, declare that a public health emergency exists; if it is not practicable for a declaration of a state of emergency or disaster to be made under the Emergency Powers Act.”

The Order commenced a day after President Mokgweetsi Masisi warned the nation to brace for an imminent lockdown. 

Masisi who was placed on quarantine by Tshipayagae following his visit to Namibia last week informed the nation that “Please prepare yourselves for the eminent lockdown. Our experts, led by Dr Masupu with Prof. Alexandra advise us to restrict the movement of people so we are better able to trace and treat any case that occurs.”

President Masisi on Friday sent another message. “I would like to tell Batswana that we are facing our most daunting challenge in living memory. This silent devastation known as Covid19 is transmitted in ways far much faster than HIV, which we continue to fight.”

He added that “The cost of care is extremely expensive and prevention is still the best defence. So, we ALL must cooperate, be helpful to ourselves, others and authorities if we are to overcome this. Let us fight this together and postpone our differences for we cannot afford to fight it divided or alone…”

Meanwhile some of the government’s preventative measures to avoid the spread of the virus, such as social distancing and decongestion to ensure business continuity have run into troubles. The government’s efforts to work with skeletal staff at its offices across the cross is facing a serious dilemma as scores of public servants rejected its decision to apply for compulsory leave on Friday (27 March 2020). Sunday Standard has learnt that through the District Commissioner, Government attempted to compel a number of public servants to apply for compulsory and unpaid leave but the decision was rejected by hundreds of government employees.

According to a savingram titled “COVID-19 Preparedness in the Public Service” government had taken a decesion that “The number of public officers be reduced in the offices countrywide.”

It states that “To address the situation, “addresses are requested to authorise officers to take fifteen (15) days annual leave with effect from the 26th March 2020.” It states that those who have over 100 days should take up to 30 days. “However skeletal staff should remain to manage the offices.”

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