Saturday, October 31, 2020

Botswana dilly-dallies on mass Covid-19 testing

There appears to be no explicit position by government to go the epidemiological route of community mass testing against the dreaded coronavirus in a population of about two million people. Neither the head of the Presidential Task Team Dr. Kereng Masupu nor his counterpart Professor Mosepele Mosepele would shed light from a scientific perspective why there is no eagerness to do so.

Dr. Masupu in particular would not say whether or not there are human OR financial capital limitations to conduct such and whether the lack thereof was not detrimental to reducing a further spread of the virus. After initially agreeing to respond, Dr. Masupu referred Sunday Standard to the Covid-19 communications officer, Kago Mmopi who protested that such issues bordered on operational aspects that lie with the Ministry of Health. He also further referred this publication to the chief public relations officer, Doreen Motshegwa.

Motshegwa herself felt she was being cornered by a late afternoon to early evening enquiry insisting this publication should follow established norms whilst government preaches the new norm in dealing with the pandemic.It was pointed out to her that while it was late, this publication sought to avert dissemination of false information as it is a crime to send out information that is not factually verified by authorities.

When Motshegwa was asked a specific question regarding the position of government regarding mass testing she said: “I don’t know. Ask Permanent Secretary Mr. Ebineng or the Director of Public Health Malebogo Kebabonye. Neither Dr. Masupu nor Motshegwa would deny or confirm an alleged new Covid-19 related death in Ramotswa. South Africa opened her borders to almost all African countries by October 1 this month sending anxiety amongst locals while government followed with a statement stipulating restricted travel conditions to other countries by citizens. That statement was short on what measures are in place to limit the further spread of the virus by visitors from elsewhere in addition to existing ones.

The SADC Regional Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic bulletin in May this year, highlighted some global public health initiatives which are being rolled out, including vaccine initiatives and testing. It also highlighted the regional case load, depicting some of the highly impacted countries.

It further provided highlights on the testing capacity of SADC Member the region has seen some plans and strategies by some Member States to ease lock down measures, this Bulletin highlights the case of Botswana and South Africa on easing lock down measures as the steps that these Member states will be taking. The Bulletin further provides updates on the economic measures and impact as well as on the implementation of the SADC Guidelines on Trade and Transport Facilitation.

Member States were urged to step up testing, including mass testing for case identification.

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