Friday, July 10, 2020

Botswana clueless about extent of COVID-19 in the country

With Botswana unable to locate its exported COVID-19 cases in any of the lineages of known local cases, there are growing fears that the country may have unknowingly progressed from from limited “local transmission” (in which carriers are identified and their contacts can be traced) to “community transmission” (in which it is no longer known who is carrying and transmitting the virus).

Fresh information indicates that Botswana’s exported Covid-19 is partly responsible for a surge in the number of new cases registered in Zimbabwe.Botswana, however, has not been able to locate these exported cases among contacts of known local Covid-19 cases.On 27 May 2020, Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana revealed that Zimbabwe’s COVID cases more than doubled on the same day )27 May 2020). Mangwana wrote on Twitter that majority were Zimbabweans who had returned from abroad, mainly from South Africa and Botswana, and only one case was a local transmission.“Zimbabwe’s #Covid19 positive cases have now spiked to 132. The 76 new cases have been recorded in the Beitbridge, Masvingo and Harare.

All new cases except one have been registered among returnees from mainly SA and Botswana. One case is local transmission,” he stated.Immediate comment from Mangwana was not available as his mobile phone rang unanswered. This publication sought to establish among others the number of returnees who tested positive upon their return from Botswana.Zimbabwean government authorities were quoted as saying that more than 4,000 Zimbabweans have returned to the country in the past month.Returnees are being placed under mandatory quarantine for 21 days, but Mangwana was quoted by the Sunday Mail newspaper as saying more than 100 had fled and were being sought by security agent.Responding to The Sunday Standard queries, Presidential COVID-19 Task Force National Coordinator Dr. Kereng Masupu confirmed that the Government of Botswana has already contacted its counterparts in neighbuoring Zimbabwe and proper contact tracing is ongoing.

Investigations between the two countries have been concluded and contact tracing is ongoing,” he said. According to Masupu, “Beitbridge is a bridge which links Zimbabwe and South Africa and has no bearing on people travelling to Botswana, therefore the Task Force has no jurisdiction over it.”According to media reports Zimbabwean Police continue to search for more than 100 repatriatees from Botswana and South Africa who escaped the quarantine centre. People coming into the country are subject to a 21-day quarantine.”They escape and sneak into the villages … We are warning people to stop sheltering them. These escapees are becoming a serious danger to communities,” police spokesman Paul Nyathi was quoted as saying.

Reports also show that more than 400 people fled a quarantine centre at a stadium in Blantyre were recently repatriated from South Africa and Botswana. Health workers and police watched them leave, telling reporters they did not have the proper protective materials to nab those escaping.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.