Monday, March 4, 2024

Masisi understated gravity of pandemic in national address

If you wanted to know the full gravity of the Covid-19 situation is in Botswana, you would have been better served by listening to Leader of the Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando on Thursday than to President Mokgweetsi Masisi two days earlier.

In fairness to Masisi, he never once painted a rosy picture but he withheld one very vital detail in his speech – that hospitals are overflowing with Covid-19 patients and that some, who would be struggling to breathe, are turned away because there is no room to accommodate them. That revelation was made by Saleshando on Thursday afternoon when he responded to Masisi’s speech, which had been delivered two days earlier.

“The relentless attack of the COVID-19 pandemic on our country and the rest of Africa has pushed both our human and financial resources to the limit, particularly, as a result of the continued emergence of new and more transmissible variants which are more contagious, the Delta variant being the latest,” said the president during a long-awaited, prime time address on Btv, adding later that cases have rapidly increased over the past five months. “We have recorded 80 154 positive cases, with 8 970 active cases. Sadly, we lost 1253 people to the pandemic as at July 12th 2021, compared to 300 in February 2021.”

Responding to Masisi’s speech on Thursday afternoon, Saleshando painted a grimmer picture, citing at one point, the case of someone he described as a mutual acquaintance of his and Vice President Slumber Tsogwane. That person was struggling to breathe, he said, and all the hospitals he (Saleshando) called couldn’t admit him because no beds were available. In investigating this lead, Sunday Standard has established that this situation applies to both government and private hospitals and affects people with or without medical aid cover.

A government nurse who is at the battlefront every day says that those turned away at hospitals don’t have to give up and go back home to await slow and painful death. What she advises, which she has seen save lives, is to go to the nearest clinic for purposes of getting oxygen supply – which one can’t buy from a shop. Clinics are supplied with oxygen-filled cylinders and where the supply has not been depleted and there is no long queue of desperate, oxygen-deprived patients, one just might get that oxygen and survive.

At least one opposition MP, Mephato Reatile, accused some elites of having sought corrupt access to the more effective Pfizer vaccine while shunning other purportedly less effective vaccines. In response to such allegation, Saleshando said that he was aware about chicanery – in which he implicated Masisi. The Botswana Congress Party president and Maun West MP said that the president wasn’t too keen on getting vaccinated until the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine. 


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