The Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Botswana seems to be spreading slowly but while this seems to be good news, managing director and consultant physician at the Riverside Hospital/Tati River Clinic Dr. Kgosidialwa Mompati is worried because in other countries the virus is spreading fast as detected through rigorous testing. In an interview with Mmegi Staffers RYDER GABATHUSE & LEBOGANG MOSIKARE, Dr Mompati emphasised the need for rigorous testing
FRANCISTOWN: Dr. Mompati, a seasoned medical practitioner who has been in practice for four decades now, has witnessed that in the neighbouring South Africa the country started with only seven cases but within no time the virus had rapidly spread across the country.
“When I take the example of Korea, it took a single person and in no time, the virus had spread across the country up to 5,000 infections,” says Mompati appealing for the country to engage in rigorous testing now rather than later to detect real infections.
He is worried that in Botswana the cases are still very low with 13 reported positive cases inclusive of one death. He concurs that indeed it is good news that the country’s numbers are seemingly low.
However, Mompati was apprehensive about how the Ramotswa case, which resulted in the country’s only death by far was handled.
“The deceased had stayed for almost two weeks with the virus, before the virus was actually detected and she even went to the Bamalete Lutheran Hospital and continued mingling with many people,” decries Mompati.
He added that in the end, many people interred the deceased’s remains even before her cause of death was known. Though attending her funeral.
“That is something that continues worrying me because, if it’s like in other countries, a lot of people could have been infected by the virus. In the end, this is what has influenced me that we should come with corridors where we will deploy testing centres,” he suggests.
He recommend that the first corridor be set up at Boatle-Ramotswa, so that if the system could detect many cases recorded from Ramotswa immediate effective contact tracing could be effected.
Mompati prefers a countrywide testing for Coronavirus. He is aware that there is a shortage of testing equipment but he thinks there could be corridors in areas such as Boatle-Ramotswa, Gabane-Thamaga, Moshupa, Gakutlo, Takatokwane, Dibete, Nata, Kasane and Ramokgwebana amongst others. This is where effective testing would be done across the country.
“After setting up the testing corridors, we should then concentrate our fight in cities and towns more especially, Gaborone, trying to test with several testing stations and other testing stations in Francistown,” he declares.
He believes that the Coronavirus is yet to spread to rural areas, which is a great advantage for the country. He is positive that the country could ensure that the virus does not infect those in the rural areas by closing it out.
He gave an example of Ebola, which wreaked havoc in Central and West Africa killing about 10,000 people, mostly rural-based populations.
He raise fear that had Ebola gone into the urban centres, it would have caused more deaths because that is where many people are concentrated.
Mompati is also worried that the virus is currently concentrated in urban areas as compared to rural areas.
He added that as such, more effective testing should be done to prevent the virus from spreading even faster.
“Once people test positive, we should have effective contact tracing and isolate the infected. This will assist us within two weeks to months, it will give proper indicators because this will be akin to sampling people and we will be able to detect the epicentre of the virus,” he says.
Despite that, he is optimistic that after 10 days or so, to about a month, “it will provide an indicator of how the country is doing in the fight against the virus.”
The effective fight of the virus, he says, will ultimately help to relax some of the lockdown procedures. He encourages the government to take cognisance of the reality that some of the lockdown procedures are going to badly affect the economy in the immediate to long-term period.
Mompati cited countries like Singapore, Korea and Taiwan where people are almost living their normal lives after their lockdown while at the same time, governments of these countries are still making sure that the people still adhere to the measures that have been put in place to control the spread of the virus.
He says what these countries did: “ Was to test a lot of people so that they can detect where the virus was and deal with it whilst on the other hand, allowed businesses to operate.”
He added: “That is what should be our aim. In other words, this lockdown should be preparatory and should not be the end in itself. It should be preparing us for more rigorous procedures for testing,” posits Mompati.
He also contends that the country’s current positive cases are ‘too good to be true’ and he says it’s causing him some worry, “that we could be dealing with a few cases when more cases are possibly hiding.”
Since Coronavirus is a public health problem, Dr. Mompati says it should rather unite both the public and private sectors.
He even observed that normal hospitals should stay free from the Coronavirus because they handle a lot of sicknesses fearing that if the virus could be brought to such facilities, it could complicate situations.
He reiterated that if the virus could hit the normal health facilities, the Coronavirus would overwhelm the country’s health systems.
Mompati pleads that the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital should be the main centre for the Coronavirus while other facilities should act as support centres.
Asked about his own assessment of how the government reacted against the fight against the Coronavirus since the lockdown was effected, Mompati said: “The initial steps are very good as government started with the lockdown. But, remember, lockdown is just preparatory whilst waiting to do something more effective.”
He commended the Ministry of Health and Wellness for doing very well, but indicated: “Let’s not stop there. What we are considering is the national shattering of the economy after everything. Subsistence farmers and the informal sector are now hardest hit despite the fact that these sectors have engaged a lot of people. If we could prolong the lockdown one or two months, it may affect us a lot. The lockdown should be relaxed if it becomes possible to do that,” he concluded.