Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Masisi secretly travels to Namibia amid coronavirus fears

The President – Mokgweetsi Masisi on Saturday morning made a surprise appearance at the inauguration of Namibian President – Hage Geingob despite his plea to Batswana to stay at home. 

While it’s a norm that the President’s international and regional official visits are usually announced through state media a day before departure or latest on the day of travel, the Namibian trip was kept a top secret until a Namibian newspaper – New Era published the pictures of Masisi alongside Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Angola’s Joao Lourenco arriving at the inaugural ceremony in Windhoek. 

By Saturday noon, various government social media pages including BWGovernment, Ministry of International Affairs and Office the President by shared nothing on Masisi’s Namibian visit. By Saturday noon, the government had not issued the “usual” press statement that announces the President’s itinerary thus leaving the nation on the dark about the visit to the corona hit neighbour. 

The visit comes hardly a few days after Masisi addressed a press conference at which he encouraged Batswana to consider avoid non –essential trips to countries that have been affected by COVID 19 otherwise known as Coronavirus. Namibia, alongside South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia are amongst African countries which have reported cases of Coronavirus. Following the spread of the virus, the government recently issued a statement in which it announced that all international travel by all government employees, parastatals and state owned enterprises have been suspended. 

The Botswana government also imposed a travel ban on all travellers from countries classified as high risk including China, Japan, US , UK Austria Germany and India. Regionally, the government followed suit on South Africa and closed some of its borders with the neighbouring country leaving only four commercial borders opened. 

DEADLY VIRUS 

As the COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus spreads and the patient count and death toll grow, economists across the globe are slashing their once-rosy expectations for global growth in 2020. Indications are that once COVID-19, like its predecessor – SARS becomes history, Economics students will have a study case on how governments should act when public health concerns are economic ones, too.

As it stands, it’s quite clear that at global level, while medical advances put the world in a better position than in the past to limit the health consequences of a global pandemic like coronavirus, globalisation and a bigger services sector mean that, other things equal, the pandemics are likely to cause greater economic costs. For countries like Botswana which is yet to register a single case of coronavirus the worry is not only on when the first case could be but largely also on the likely impact on the growth of the already fragile economy. In short, from economic perspective of policy makers in Botswana, the key issue is not just the number of cases of COVID -19 that could be registered, but the level of disruption to the domestic economy. 

Even before the emergence of Coronavirus the ability of the health care system in Botswana to absorb a shock — what experts usually call surge capacity — had proven to be much weaker than many would have thought. As a result, while local medical experts and health policymakers are nervously tracking signs that the coronavirus is spreading widely beyond its origins – China, local economists on the other hand are also are watching for much the same thing when it comes to the economic damage. Early indications are that for the four months since its first case the coronavirus have had an acute impact on a relatively narrow set of industries in Botswana.

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