Wednesday, December 1, 2021

This was always going to be a difficult winter for Botswana’s efforts to fight Covid-19

There are too many variants floating.

And naturally the virus gets more efficient in winter.

And not withstanding official speak, Botswana has done a staggeringly bad job on the vaccination front.

Vaccine is the way out of the current variants flying all over the place.

As it is, the race is between vaccines and the variants – with one trying to outpace the other.

At the beginning authorities talked about using the gains and experiences from the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Such infrastructure was supposed to give Botswana a head-start against its peers.

Yet a closer look reveals that Botswana is lagging behind in many fronts as the third wave rages on, sped mainly by the Delta variant first found in India.

There is nothing to suggest that we are reaping the rewards of the infrastructure created just over twenty years ago when the country was battling against HIV/AIDS.

The situation of the third wave, compounded by the Delta variant provides a big test for Botswana’s ability to contain the virus going forward.

A lockdown remains the government’s jewel on the crown.

But given the state of the economy it is out of bounds.

The country is under a state of Emergency.

The State of Emergency was supposed to make it easy to come up with laws to fight the virus.

Instead, it has served to fuel corruption as rules of procurement have literally been set aside or they have become easy to circumvent.

Using the state of Emergency rules, this week government responded by banning the sale of alcohol.

This was most likely the first salvo in many more restrictions that will follow – taking the cue from South Africa which has gone significantly upfront to reimpose restrictions and effectively upgrade lockdown to higher levels.

It is very unlikely that Botswana Government will impose a total lockdown.

The economy is at its weakest.

Many people have been laid off.

Companies are on deathbeds.

Across the world there is a surge in infections.

The Delta Variant first found in India is fueling infections across the world.

It seems that countries like the United Kingdom that have done a good job in vaccinations are standing firm.

Even though infections are rising, the hospitals are holding on because there is no corresponding spike in people getting too sick, people getting hospitals or even dying.

In other words, there is ample evidence to suggest that vaccines work.

The story of Botswana’s fight against Covid however goes untold – at least for now.

It is a story similar to the inefficiencies and wastage seen in public expenditure over the years.

A lot of money has been spent on fighting Covid-19 – billions by the way.

Yet there is nothing to show for it. Too little has been achieved.

Wastage and corruption have guzzled all of it.

State of Emergency has meant suspending rules, taking away responsibilities from technocrats and giving all of those to the President or people surrounding him, in this instance the Presidential Covid Task Force.

Now the Covid Task Force has become a Procurement Agency.

The biggest undertaking by the Task Force is no longer to advice and help on how to fight Covid-19.

Rather they are concentrating on issuing tenders of PPEs to their friends and relatives.

This has led to them internalizing procurement corruption instead of providing advice on fighting covid.

Once again, the amount of money Botswana has spent on Covid-19 does not correspond with what has been achieved.

The country has spent way too much and accomplished way too little.

For a country so short on resources, this should get us worried – not least because we still have a long way to go in fighting Covid-19.

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