Saturday, June 6, 2020

Gaps in Botswana’s official COVID-19 report worrying

Glaring gaps in official reports on the state of the country’s COVID-19 may be creating space for speculations and conspiracy theories to flourish.

Since the first three cases in the country were reported on March 30,2020, the public has not been appraised on their health.

While one of the three initial cases was reported dead less than a day following the announcement, there has not been a progress report on the other two.

No information on any of the initial cases displaying symptoms has been shared with the public by health authorities either.

International research has shown that the median time from patients first having symptoms to finally having a negative test for the virus was 10 days.

It had been 24 days since the announcement of the first reported cases of COVID-19 Botswana.   By the time of going to press the country stood at 22 confirmed cases with one casualty.

The number of local transmissions has also increased to eight as the expiry date for the 28 day lockdown looms. This has prompted health authorities to switch strategy from the initial plan to undertake community testing of 20,000 people, to contact tracing.

Authorities hope to identify those who have had physical contact with the people who have so far tested positive for the virus.

Coordinator of COVID-19 Task Force Dr.Kereng Masupu told the nation this week that the government will impose a partial lockdown of villages with confirmed cases of the virus such as Molepolole, Mahalapye, Bobonong, and Siviya.Professor Mosepele Mosepele, Deputy Coordinator of COVID-19 Task Force, said contact tracing was bearing fruits and should be intensified through target testing and abandon community testing. A total of 24 contacts of the COVID-19 Siviya patient had been reported to have tested negative for COVID-19.

Daily News quoted North East District Health Management Team (DHMT) coordinator, Rodah Phindela as having said they had managed to trace 36 contacts of the 34-year-old man from Siviya village in the North East District. COVID-19 Task Force Coordinator Masupu told the nation this week that they have taken a decision to avoid sharing “too much information” on the confirmed cases to avoid giving away identities of the patients.

South Africa this week reported at least 1,055 recoveries out of 3,635 confirmed cases with 65 deaths. World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus this week told the international community that the fight against COVID-19 was far from over. “Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time,” he said in a statement.

“Although numbers are low, we see worrying upward trends in Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. Most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics. And some that were affected early in the pandemic are now starting to see a resurgence in cases.”

He said while stay-at-home orders and other physical distancing measures have successfully suppressed transmission in many countries, the virus remains extremely dangerous.

Ghebreyesus said early evidence suggests most of the world’s population remains susceptible, saying that means epidemics can easily re-ignite.

“One of the greatest dangers we face now is complacency. People in countries with stay-at-home orders are understandably frustrated with being confined to their homes for weeks on end. People understandably want to get on with their lives, because their lives and livelihoods are at stake. That’s what WHO wants too. And that’s what we are working for, all day, every day,” he said.

He said the world cannot go back to the way things were. “There must be a ‘new normal’ – a world that is healthier, safer and better prepared. The same public health measures we have been advocating since the beginning of the pandemic must remain the backbone of the response in all countries.”

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