The Ministry of Health and Wellness has finalised a repatriation plan for the 25 Batswana currently stuck in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The plan, according to documents seen by Mmegi this week, is now awaiting Cabinet consideration.
Since January 23, 2020, Wuhan has been on lockdown, and its residents, including Batswana have not been allowed to leave their homes. China accounts for more than 3,000 of the coronavirus deaths with Wuhan having experienced more than 2,305 of these.
Today (Friday) a group of 122 South Africans are due to return to their home country from Wuhan, after a military flight left on Tuesday to repatriate them.
Documents show that on February 19, Cabinet tasked three ministries with investigating a possible repatriation of Batswana in Wuhan.
“Ministry of Health and Wellness was tasked to provide the Ministry of Transport with health requirements on the aircraft, developing a plan for management of the evacuees pre, para and post evacuation and assisting in provision of psychological care to the residents in Wuhan before repatriation,” the documents read.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness has developed an evacuation plan and a decision of Cabinet on the progress of repatriation is awaited.”
Last week, a representative of the students told Mmegi some of the group of Batswana in Wuhan had experienced panic attacks and were in danger of slipping
Repatriating the citizens in Wuhan is a divisive issue, with some commentators believing the group should wait out the lockdown and avoid risking the lives of fellow Batswana at home.
Those in support of the repatriation say the small group can be tested prior to departure and quarantined on arrival to prevent any possible local transmission.
Meanwhile, health authorities are boosting their capacity to diagnose the deadly virus and have plans to start off local testing within days.
According to the documents, it is planned that the National Health Laboratory will have the capacity to test between 50 and 150 specimens per week.
The Health Ministry recently received a P50 million boost for its fight against the coronavirus.
“Once testing starts, the results will be available within 48 to 72 hours of receiving the specimens,” the documents read.
“The National Health Laboratory has finalised a framework of contract with the Botswana Bureau of Standards, which will facilitate servicing and maintenance of the Biosafety Cabinet and pipettes, which are key to the COVID-19 testing laboratory.”
Local authorities are currently waiting for the results of two patients sent to South Africa for testing.