The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its travel advisory for Covid-19 and added Botswana to the crowded “high” risk category. Previously, Botswana was on level 1 which is “low risk”. The “Level 3: Covid-19 High” category now applies to countries that have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.
In a bid to adapt to an ever-changing pandemic, the CDC unveiled a new ratings system for assessing Covid-19 travel risk assessments for travellers in April, 2022. Under this new system, destinations are categorised into the following categories: Level 3: High risk for Covid-19, Level 2: Moderate risk for Covid-19, Level 1: Low risk for Covid-19 and Unknown: Not enough data to assess risk. Level 4 which was previously considered the highest risk is now reserved for special circumstances such as extremely high numbers of Covid cases, the emergence of a new variant of concern or healthcare infrastructure collapse.
This development comes as the Director of Health Services in the ministry of health, Dr Pamela Smith-Lawrence announced that Botswana has now entered the fifth wave of Covid-19. Since the beginning of May, Botswana has been recording doubling of Covid cases every week.
According to the Covid-19 weekly bulletin for June 21st, 2022, Botswana had 6685 active cases. The bulletin also noted that Boteti and Kgalagadi South and Gaborone were the only regions in red (high) meaning the attack rate per 100 000 is greater than 200. Greater Gaborone, Jwaneng, Mahalapye, Greater Phikwe, Francistown, Tutume and Chobe were orange (medium) meaning the attack rate per 100 000 was between 100 and 200. All other zones such as Ngamiland, Okavango, Ghanzi, Charleshill, Serowe were still green (low) meaning the attack rate per 100 000 was less than 100.
As of June 21st, the number of countries in the Level 3 category accounted for approximately half of the nearly 235 places which are monitored by the CDC. Over 110 destinations (46 percent) were on categorised on the Level 3: High risk for Covid-19 on June 21.
Meanwhile a report by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Grace Muzila that was filed with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), highlighted that there would be a review of the mask mandate post winter. “While some Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted such as the requirement for a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate on entry at points of entry (POE) for fully vaccinated travellers, the majority of public health and social measures including mandatory mask wearing still remain in place until a review of the accompanying legislation is conducted post the Winter period,” states Muzila in her report.
Before a traveller travels to a level 3 destination like Botswana, CDC advises that a traveller must be up to date with Covid-19 vaccines. According to CDC, up to date means a traveller must have had the full initial vaccinations as well as booster depending on the vaccines.