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In the eye of a quarantine storm

THALEFANG CHARLES
Dr Lemogang Kwape (in white shirt) minister of Health and Wellness at the IHS quarantine PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
A visibly angry woman arrives at IDM quarantine site fuming. “They can’t do this to my brother. No! My brother can’t sleep here waitse,” she shouts to everyone who is listening, as she walks from her car to the people sparsely standing by the barbed fence, all in face masks.

But the scene is sombre and sobering, she is unsure whom to approach. There is a heavy police presence. As she quickly does the math, she realises that this is not a place to cause a scene. She has walked into a much bigger and graver scene.

She fiddles with her phone, as if to recollect herself before walking to one of the women sitting quietly in the dark. She is politely directed to speak to one of the women standing by the fence. After a brief conversation, the woman stands still and stares at the fence.

Beyond the fence two women reluctantly pull their luggage into one of the buildings, which will be their home for the next 14 days.

This was a scene at IDM West Campus in Gaborone when the Mmegi team arrived to inspect the quarantine on Tuesday.

Many travellers were caught unprepared when the country decided to close borders and throw all arrivals into a mandatory government quarantine to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus that is raging through the world.

The Health Ministry scrambled to find facilities to hold about 300 people who entered the country after the announcement of the quarantine was done. The South of the country has four detention centres, namely IDM Gaborone West Campus, IHS Gaborone, Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital Staff Village and IHS Lobatse.

When Mmegi visited IHS Gaborone on the first night, Health and Wellness minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape together with his permanent secretary, were both on the frontline working to place the hundreds of travellers into quarantine.

Outside the gate, relatives were gathering, some hoping to convince the authorities to let their loved ones go home. There was an outcry over alleged

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sub-standard facilities at the quarantines with videos quickly circulating on social media. Those quarantined demanded clean water, hand sanitisers, toilet paper and better bedding.

Some who personally knew the minister even tried their connections but Dr Kwape, with his delightfully calm, but determined demeanour, was having none of it.

“Even if there are no facilities, I will still quarantine them,” he told the crowd at IDM.

Outside the gate, a couple could be seen crying after delivering some blankets to their daughter who had travelled from Cape Town.

The following morning on Wednesday, the army took over the quarantine. There were still complaints at some facilities, but the supplies were trickling in; boxes of sanitisers, masks and toilet paper. Visitors at IDM were also given sanitisers and masks.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a leading Gaborone corporate attorney, John Carr-Hartley, whose daughter was also quarantined, forced government to provide segregation, sanitary and hygienic conditions with proper infection control and protection to his daughter and others in different quarantines.

That night things turned for the better as some of the people quarantined were taken to Gaborone’s top hotels including Masa Square Hotel in the CBD. Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Peggy Serame announced that the hotels had approached the government to offer their accommodation for free to those quarantined.

According to Doreen Motshegwa from the Ministry of Health, the quarantined people held for 14 days will be given daily monitoring cards to observe themselves. They will be tested for coronavirus on Day 10 and released if they are negative. Those who test positive will be transferred to Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital for medical attention.

As of Wednesday, Botswana had not yet recorded a positive case of coronavirus.



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