Thursday, August 6, 2020

MPs a COVID-19 public danger

The screaming match between Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members and their Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) during the unruly State of Emergency debate on Wednesday and Thursday increased their risks of contracting and spreading the coronavirus – new research by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Botswana’s 52 Members of Parliament their official drivers, members of the media, government officials and the national assembly cleaning staff were this week exposed to the coronavirus after it emerged that a nurse who was screening parliamentarians on Wednesday tested positive to the virus.

The COVID-19 risk was further amplified by the MPs unruly shouting and yelling on the parliament floor.

The research by CDC which is the American leading national public health institute has revealed that COVID-19 may be “three times as infectious as flu,” and that “pre-symptomatic transmission might occur through generation of respiratory droplets or possibly through indirect transmission. Speech and other vocal activities such as singing have been shown to generate air particles, with the rate of emission corresponding to voice loudness.”

This means COVID-19 might spread by people who have no apparent symptoms through something as simple as talking and singing. And loud talkers will spread the virus even more.

Dr Kereng Masupu who was worried that the screaming and shouting by BDP and UDC parliamentarians during the state of emergency debate predisposed them to COVID-19 was forced to butt in during the parliamentary shouting match. Dr Masupu warned the MPs to desist from shouting and yelling because this helped spread the virus.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Phandu Skelemani also expressed concern that MPs flouted the social distancing protocol during periodic adjournments on Wednesday. “Nna Ke tshaba Mapalamente”, I am scared of the MPs he said, apparently referring to the health threat they posed.

It further emerged Thursday that after the MPs were advised to go into self-isolation, some of them went shopping where they mingled with members of the public. Nata Gweta MP, Polson Majaga, Tonota MP Pono Moatlhodi and Gaborone Bonington South MP Christian deGreef were allegedly spotted doing grocery shopping at one of Gaborone’s Choppies supermarkets when they were supposed to be on self-isolation.

Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) called on the Director of Health and Wellness – Dr Malaki Tshipiyagae to must step down for failing to protect President Mokgweetsi Masisi, his cabinet and members of Parliament from COVID-19.

BONU issued the statement Thursday shortly after the Minister responsible for Health and Wellness – Dr Lemogang Kwape reported that Botswana has recorded seven new cases of covid-19.  Among the reported cases was a nurse who is based at Block 8 clinic in Gaborone and was on duty screening Members of Parliament on Wednesday.

In a statement, BONU said that it recommends that all members of the Parliament case cohort go on mandatory quarantine. Members of Parliament together with Parliament support staff, journalist and other senior government officials who were present at Parliament on Wednesday have since been placed under 14 days mandatory quarantine from Thursday.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.