Monday, September 27, 2021

State has something to hide?

The government remains hell-bent on concealing information on the number of international arrivals particularly those from India since the outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta Variant.

Four weeks of continued attempts by Sunday Standard to acquire the information have drawn a blank as the government continues to cover up for their fatal negligence that has resulted in thousands of Batswana losing their lives to the Delta Variant.

Investigations by this publication have indicated how thousands of lives could have been saved but for the gross failure to maintain strict screening of passengers from high risk countries.

While other countries imposed a ban on travellers from India at the height of the second wave that killed hundreds of Indians daily, Botswana’s ports of entry remained indiscriminately open.

The Director of Immigration Caroline Okello-Wengi and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Immigration Dr. Temba Mmusi have been sending this publication from pillar to post for the past four weeks in our attempts to acquire travel statistics for the period from April to September 2021.

The decision to rather quarantine travelers from red list countries as opposed to a complete ban has backfired over the past few months with Botswana’s daily mortality rate rising from 25 to 320 deaths.

The government also failed to subject incomers to mandatory Repeat Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests after seven (7) days of quarantine whereupon the travelers could be discharged as per the outcome of the results.

Responding to a Sunday Standard inquiry earlier this year Permanent Secretary, Government Communications Andrew Sesinyi dismissed the idea of a total ban of travellers as impractical.

“Banning international travel or closing borders is at this stage of the pandemic management, no longer a potent COVID-19 Response intervention for Botswana or any country dealing with the global pandemic. Such intervention at a time when the world is adjusting to the new normal would only serve to isolate the country and shut down its economy,” he told this publication in May this year, at a time when some countries closed borders on India.

His sentiments were later echoed by Assistant Minister of Health Sethomo Lelatisitswe who put it bluntly that they would continue to welcome travelers from India because they are “business people”.

Government spokesperson Andrew Sesinyi said Botswana would rather continue to be on high alert and intensify preparedness measures including surveillance and monitoring at ports of entry and district levels in order to rapidly respond to any emerging public health crisis.

Just 300 Covid-19 deaths were recorded in the 12 months between February 29, 2020 and February 28, 2021 as compared to the 2,325+ deaths recorded in the six months between March and September 2021, representing an 80 percent increase in mortality. President Mokgweetsi Masisi acknowledged the devastating surge during one of his recent Covid-19 updates.  “COVID-19 cases in Botswana have rapidly increased over the past five months,” Masisi told the nation in mid-July 2021. The Botswana Vaccine Rollout Programme commenced end of March 2021. The Government has said they are satisfied the country’s Vaccination Rollout Plan has been communicated comprehensively and effectively as evidenced by the high turnout of people at vaccination centers.

“The Government of Botswana has fully communicated its procurement plans for the vaccines and arrivals of vaccines supplies. All the aforementioned information is in the public domain for consumption by all well-meaning reviewers of the Botswana Government Response to COVID-19,” the government has said. President Masisi said recently that they expect to have fully vaccinated 64 percent of the population by end of October 2021.

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