Monday, October 26, 2020

Legislators defy COVID-19 Task Force advice

Unless Vice President(VP) Slumber Tsogwane, Speaker of the National Assembly Phandu Skelemani and Members of Parliament happen to also double up as healthcare workers, they have been constantly breaking one of the COVID-19 government protocols.

Sunday Standard has observed that the VP, Speaker, and several MPs from both sides of the aisle have been using medical (surgical) masks contrary to advice from the government and COVID-19 Task Force.

The government released a statement in May this year advising against the use of medical masks by the public due to their scarcity.

The government advised the public to buy or make their own non-medical masks so the limited medical masks available can be reserved for healthcare workers and persons working in high risk areas.

The public have been advised to wear non-medical cloth face mask or any home-made item that covers the nose and mouth or another appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth when in a public place.

“It is important for the public to remember that when someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close to someone, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus, if the person coughing or sneezing has the disease,” the government has advised saying the use of masks is critical and effective when used in combination with specified personal hygiene practices and social distancing.

Wearing of masks in public has been made compulsory as the numbers of Coronavirus cases in Botswana continue to surge. The sudden rise in numbers has raised questions about Botswana’s readiness for the pandemic and availability of adequate personal protective equipment (PPEs) remains at the centre of the government’s efforts to ensure frontline workers stay protected.

The decision by the political leaders to defy advice by the Task Force places health workers and those in the frontlines directly in danger should the government be overwhelmed by demand for PPEs.

Vice President Tsogwane is not new to being on the wrong side of the law when it comes to COVID-19 protocols, having been guilty of improper use of face masks.

The grounds of the Office of the President became an epicenter for flagrant violation of the very important infection-control protocol in relation to wearing of masks early this year following the coronavirus outbreak.

On an almost daily basis, there was a businessperson or organization donating money to the COVID-19 Relief Fund. Vice President Tsogwane and the Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Meshack Mthimkhulu, were always on hand to feature at mock-cheque presentation ceremonies that were held on OP grounds.

On the basis of what Sunday Standard observed then, infection-control protocols that have been codified into public health law were being willfully flouted with no action being taken against the culprits. This was happening at the highest office in the land and with the second citizen, himself a custodian of COVID-19 law on account of being a legislator, standing only a few centimeters away. The VP is now, together with fellow legislators, attracting attention again for defying COVID-19 protocols.

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