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Botswana on high alert as SA COVID-19 cases rise

BTO BOSS: Myra Sekgororoane

Botswana is on high alert as cases of COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, rises in the neighbouring South Africa.

Although no case of the now declared world pandemic has been confirmed in Botswana, the country’s porous borders are posing an immediate threat and have pushed government officials into action.

“The game changer is that South Africa has changed as of yesterday from importing cases to now locally transmitting. A country poses danger when it is locally transmitting because it means the virus is now spreading within the country from person to person even among those who have not travelled otherwise,” explained head of Ngami District Health Management Team (DHMT), Dr Malebogo Kebabonye.

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She was speaking this at Maun Lodge, where tourism business operators and the media met at the invitation of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) and the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB).

The intention of the meeting was to discuss and clarify on precautions and advisory to travellers from countries affected by the pandemic.

“That remains a concern and that is where we need to contain the virus. The chances of it spreading outside the borders is very high,” Kebabonye further expressed concern over SA situation.

As of last Friday, SA confirmed 24 cases of COVID-19 within its borders and thus throwing the tourism operators into panic.

While others accused Botswana of failing to close all gaps to stop the virus from penetrating through its borders, some acknowledged a joint effort by every citizen will save the country from the looming transmissions.

“It is inevitable, when the virus is in SA, Botswana will have it. I see no way out,” one of the operators pointed out.

Nonetheless after detailing and pointing out loopholes in the government response teams’ tactics, the operators acknowledged that what is important at the end of the day is to do all possible to prevent it from hitting Botswana.

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Already tourists are cancelling and postponing their visits to Botswana just as the peak season is about to begin.

Major international conferences are being cancelled and Botswana is looking at the possibility of cancelling big gatherings as well, confirmed BTO’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Myra Sekgororwane.

“The cancellations, if they are to be done, will happen three weeks before the event,” she noted.

Major events that were to take place in the country including the 2020 Forbes Under 30 Summit have been postponed and some are likely to be cancelled.

Since its outbreak late last year in China, COVID-19has claimed over 3000 lives globally, with more than 124 000 cases recorded as of this week. World Health Organisation (WHO) has even declared it a world pandemic.

As of Thursday, 12th March, 2020, Botswana had recorded 19 cumulative suspected cases of which 14 tested negative COVID-19 and 5 we awaiting laboratory results.

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