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Our response to Covid-19 will define our legacy

MOKGWEETSI MASISI
President Masisi PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
Statement by President Mokgweetsi Masisi on the occasion of an Extra Ordinary Meeting of Parliament

Mr. Speaker, let me at the onset appreciate you for graciously honouring my invitation, at short notice, to attend this Extra-Ordinary session of Parliament. This session is intended to afford you the opportunity to debate, provide direction and legislate instruments that would enable us as a nation to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic commonly known as Coronavirus.

Let me also take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to this House for your active involvement in sensitising your constituents on the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused death and misery on an unprecedented scale globally.

I must thank you Honourable Members for you know more than your average constituent what shear power we have come to discuss which could either possibly rescue them or lead to their demise if not helped by only us.

Mr. Speaker as you are aware, the world learnt of a new outbreak of a severe pneumonia and infection of the lungs, in Wuhan in the Hubei Province in China in late December, 2019. By early January of 2020, Chinese authorities had identified the cause of the severe pneumonia as a new strain of virus called Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or COVID-19.

On 5th March 2020, the Republic of South Africa recorded its first case of COVID-19, Namibia and Eswatini quickly followed suit when they too announced the first cases on the15th of March 2020, and Zimbabwe on March 21st 2020. Following the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the COVID-I9 outbreak as a global pandemic on 11th March 2020, the Director of Public Health declared a Public Health Emergency on 20th March, 2020 to put in place initial measures to curb the spread and the transmission of the COVID-19 through social distancing.

The initial recommendation was to not have gatherings of more than 100 people but the outlook of the situation compelled a reduction of these gathering to be limited to more than ten. The exponential growth in numbers of those infected and the need to curb the spread of the virus by restricting movement, meant a limitation that encroached on gatherings in churches, bars, schools and certain business premises, which would an effect in the running of the economy. This called for a wider legislative instrument as the Public Health Act powers did not cover what was needed to protect Batswana and our economy.

I found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, and use the powers vested in me to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from 2nd April 2020 at midnight. The State of Public Emergency is for purposes of taking effective measures to address the spread and transmission of this novel virus.

The said constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provides that such a declaration can be up to 21 days. Considering the gravity of the matter, and in line with the Constitution, I also invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra-ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult you on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus, after which I will request you to pass a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and also extend its duration by six (6) months.

 I have decided to convene this extra ordinary meeting of Parliament because we live in extra-ordinary times which require stringent measures whose aim is to protect our people and the economic interests of our country from the effects of the pandemic.

 The Constitution of a democratic country has in its nucleus a core of entrenched provisions that are not and cannot be subordinated to any other piece of legislation. Such entrenched provisions include the Bill of Rights that guarantees freedoms of movement, gatherings, association and self-expression. These are the liberties that in our Constitution are so deeply embedded that they can only be legislatively reviewed through the instruments of national referenda. However, the prevailing state of emergency is intended to deal only with the COVID-19 crisis and will not in any way undermine people’s fundamental rights.

Mr. Speaker, we are at crossroads with this pandemic. However, guided by our core national principles of Botho, Democracy, Self-Reliance, Development and Unity, underpinned by Therisanyo, I am confident that we will find common ground to be resolute, vigilant and resilient in fighting this pandemic.

 Mr. Speaker, this pandemic is a national security threat that challenges our very existence as a nation state and people. Parliament has, in its last sitting, passed the Appropriation Bill that allocated the national budget. At the time, we did not foresee that the pandemic would reach these alarming rates. Clearly, Parliament has to deliberate and decide on measures that need to be put in place to ensure that resources are allocated to address this crisis.

 As much as the measures that have been put in place have disrupted our way of living, they are necessary for our survival as a country and as a people.

Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 is spread through contact and air droplets. People can contract it from infected surfaces as well as from droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes within 1 to 2 meters from another person. Once exposed to COVID-19, younger people without other medical conditions develop mild cold-like symptoms such as a cough, sore throat and a fever amongst others. However, older people, with chronic medical problems are more likely to develop moderate to severe symptoms and can even succumb to the infection. Almost 80% of those who develop COVID- 19 have mild symptoms which are mostly young people while the remaining 20% which is mostly older people develop severe symptoms requiring hospitalization.

As of the 7th of April 2020, almost 1, 133 758 (One Million, One Hundred and Thirty Three Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty Eight) people drawn from 184 countries had been infected by COVID-19, and over 62 784 lives had been claimed by the virus worldwide. In Europe, Italy and Spain have now become the epicentre of the virus with a combined number of over 30 000 deaths. The United States of America has the leading number of infections with over 378 000 that have been recorded. In Africa, we are observing a steady increase in the number of infections from COVID-19 and the Republic of South Africa has the highest number of infections on the continent with 1,749 positive cases so far and they are most likely to increase rapidly before they decrease.

 Mr. Speaker, on the 30th of March 2020, Botswana confirmed three (3) cases of COVID-19. The first case was that of a 47 year old Motswana man. He had travelled to the United Kingdom (UK) on the 29th of February, 2020 and left the UK on the 21st of March 2020, arriving in Botswana on the 22nd of March this year. He was asymptomatic upon arrival, however he developed symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath on day 6 of quarantine.

The second and the third cases are that of a Batswana couple, a 40 year old woman and her 42 year old husband. They had travelled to Thailand on the 10th to the 20th of March 2020. On the 20th of March, 2020 they travelled to South Africa, via Dubai to Botswana. They were on home quarantine and reported to have flu-like symptoms after a few of days and samples were collected from both of them for testing on the 27th of March, 2020.

 The fourth case of COVID-19 was reported on the 31st of March, 2020. A 79 year old woman from Ramotswa died on the 25th of March this year. She was buried on the 28th of March and safe burial protocols were followed under the guidance of an environmental health officer as she was a suspected case at the time of her demise. She had travelled to Motswedi, in the

Republic of South Africa on the 14th of March, 2020 returning to Botswana on the 15th of March, 2020. She had an existing chronic lung disease, hypertension and liver mass.

 On the 21st of March, 2020 she developed a shortness of breath and reported to the Bamalete Lutheran Hospital. On the 25th of March, 2020 her symptoms worsened and she was referred to the Magope Clinic where she later died while preparations were being made for her to be referred to the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital. Contact tracing is under way, and currently nine (9) close contacts and thirteen (13) casual contacts have been identified.

Botswana confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 on the 5th of April, 2020. The two cases are that of a 27 year old Motswana man who returned to Botswana from the United Kingdom. He arrived on the 14th of March, 2020 and was put on home quarantine. He was tested on the 28th of March, after showing COVID-19 symptoms and was subsequently referred to the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital on the 31st March 2020.

 The sixth case is that of a 27 year old woman who does not have a travel history, however she had had contact with the 27 year old Motswana man. She tested positive for COVID-19 on the 29th of March 2020, and was transferred to the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital on the 31st of March.

Mr Speaker, I also wish to inform this Honourable House that two Batswana who are based in the United States of America and Canada, recently tested positive for the Coronavirus, however, I am happy to share with you that they have since recovered and I have spoken to both of them in their families. Batswana students who are based in Wuhan, in the Hubei Province in China were given a choice on whether to stay in China or come back home but given the fact that the spread of the virus has now subsided in that area, they have since indicated that they are inclined to remain in China. As Government, we are also monitoring closely Batswana who are working in our diplomatic missions abroad. So far, there are no reported cases of Batswana in these diplomatic missions who have tested positive for COVID-19. We care for them and I ask that we keep them in our prayers.

 

RESPONSE STRATEGIES TO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Mr. Speaker, regarding the COVID-19 situation in Botswana, Government started making preparations to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak as early as January 2020. Specifically, the Emergency Public Health Committee was activated to guide the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, a High Level Task Force chaired by myself to guide Government‘s response to the pandemic was established. The High Level Task Force has been meeting three times a week since the 23rd of March, 2020 to review the status of our readiness as a country and to advise Government accordingly.

In this regard, the Task Force came up with the economic rescue package to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on companies and their employees. In addition, the Task Force advised Government to take protective measures such as social distancing, restrictions on travel in and outside the country, limitations on social gatherings as well as the early closure of schools across the country.

Several measures were also introduced to prevent the spread of the virus which included public education on hygiene, minimizing person to person contact through the promotion of social distancing and the reduction of the movement of people, including the cancellation of non-essential travel by Government employees. As more cases were reported in neighbouring countries, Government moved to restrict the movement of people to and from affected countries from entering Botswana. A mandatory quarantine was introduced for citizens and residents returning from high risk countries.

A sophisticated national command centre has been established under the leadership of Dr Kereng Masupu and Professor Mosepele Mosepele – our two leading experts. Major General Mophuting of the Botswana Defence Force provides the technical leadership to run the centre. The centre collects and collates information from Government Ministries, districts, the private sector and the public. All these measures are well established strategies for containing the spread of COVID-19. Furthermore;

 

(a)       Citizens from the following countries are prohibited from entering Botswana: China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, USA, UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

(b)      Botswana imposed a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all people entering the country on the 24th of March 2020. Truck drivers were exempted from the mandatory quarantine to ensure the continued supply of goods and services.

(c)       The  Government  of  Botswana  closed  some  of  its ports of entry on 20th March 2020 and only specified nine border posts being; Kazungula, Mamuno, Martin’s Drift, Mohembo, Ngoma, Pioneer, Ramatlabama and Tlokweng borders, two rail entry points and fourteen airports and airstrips remained as points of entry into Botswana. 

 (d)     Issuance of Visa at Ports of Entry and at all Embassies for any person from high risk countries was suspended with immediate effect. Current visas were also cancelled with immediate effect.

 

TESTING OF SUSPECTED CASES

To date, 2081 people have been placed in institutional quarantines, while 291 are on home quarantine. A total number of 966 people have been tested out of which 1154 have tested negative. Those awaiting results are 149.

 To facilitate testing locally, the National Health Laboratory (NHL) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control are finalising validation of final protocols, quality control and result correlation. If successful, the NHL will be granted permission to test, confirm and release results without the National Institute of Communicable Diseases based in the Republic of South Africa’s confirmation. Once testing starts, the laboratory will test up to 500 per day. The Botswana Harvard Partnership has also been capacitated to perform 400 tests per day bringing our daily total local testing capacity to 900 and plans are already underway to increase this figure to at least 2000 samples per day. The World Health Organisation facilitated the setting up of our testing facilities for COVID-19 and to ensure compliance and quality control at our laboratories.

Mr. Speaker in summary the following are some of the activities that Government has undertaken to address the spread and transmission of this global pandemic;

•          On 16th March 2020 Government issued travel restrictions and social distancing measures and on the same day, the Minister of Health and Wellness Honourable Dr. Lemogang Kwape delivered a statement to Parliament on Botswana’s preparedness regarding COVID-19;

•          On 17th March 2020, Parliament was adjourned so that Members of Parliament could go to their respective constituencies to sensitise their constituents on the fight against COVID-19;

•          On 18th March 2020, Government issued a directive closing all learning institutions with effect from 23rd March 2020; 

•          On 19th March 2020, I addressed a press conference announcing measures to curb the spread and transmission of COVID-19. These restrictions covered two key areas being travel and social distancing ;

All travellers arriving in Botswana from high risk countries classified as having local transmission would be isolated for care if they had symptoms of COVID-19, while those without symptoms would be quarantined for 14 days.

All residents on home quarantine were not allowed to leave home for any reason. They were required to monitor their own health and report any symptoms to health authorities by phone. If they needed to leave for medical reasons, they were advised to call health authorities for assistance.

Government’s decision to suspend all external trips by public officers, including the hosting of international events and conferences still stands until further notice.

To minimise the risk of contracting and possible spreading of COVID-19, members of the public were further advised to postpone non-essential local travel.

To ensure the continued safety of people at funerals and memorial services; 

▪          Funerals should be brief and last no more than 2 hours;

▪          Organisers are to ensure easy access to hand cleaning with water and soap;

▪          During burials, strict hand washing and surface cleaning is recommended for all equipment used such as shovels, microphones among other and;

▪          To further minimise risk, no food service shall be provided to those in attendance.

On social distancing, Government directed the total suspension of public gatherings of more than one hundred (100) people which was imposed from the 16th of March 2020 for a thirty (30) day period. These included;

▪          Religious gatherings; 

▪          Sporting events;

▪          Conferences;

▪          Wedding celebrations; 

▪          Night clubs and bars;

▪          Music concerts and;

▪          Parties;

 Members of the public were also advised to maintain a distance of 1 to 2 meters between individual persons and a maximum of 50 individuals everywhere including at the following places;

▪          Banks;

▪          Restaurants, including take out restaurants; 

▪          Supermarkets and shops;

▪          Pharmacies;

▪          Post Offices and;

Government service departments for example, road and transport, immigration, civil registration, hospitals and clinics as well as police stations.

To ensure the continued safety of other users of health facilities, individuals who displayed cold symptoms such as cough, fever and a sore throat and had had contact with returning travellers were advised not use public transport. When using private vehicles or walking on foot, they should alert

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health authorities on arrival, before entering the health facility.

•          On 20th March 2020, the Director of Public Health declared a State of Public Health Emergency under Section 25 of the Public Health Act to minimise the risk and possible spread of COVID-19 in Botswana; 

•          I undertook an emergency official trip to Namibia on March

 

21st, 2020, to attend the Inauguration ceremony of His Excellency Mr. Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia but also to seize the opportunity of the presence of other regional Heads of State in Windhoek, Namibia to discuss critical COVID-19 measures taken in the respective countries sharing borders with the Republic of Botswana. While in Namibia, we also discussed access to strategic ports for our landlocked country, in the event that the current routes for our goods and other supplies became overwhelmed or inaccessible. 

•          I took the view that a face to face meeting with my counterparts was necessary to discuss these matters as well as urgent border issues in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. I recognised that while Botswana needs to keep regional borders open for passage of goods, the Regional Leaders must agree on reasonable restrictions as well. There is, for instance, the need for consistency on the treatment of truckers bringing in essential supplies from the Republic of South Africa.

•          I also had the opportunity to meet with His Excellency Mr. Mr. Emerson Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe who is the current chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security who briefed me about the political and security situation in Malawi following the ruling by the High Court to nullify the 2019 general election results in that country. 

•          Issues of immigration also emerged in the meetings. There was also need to facilitate legal extension for those who could not leave due to airline cancellations. Issues of defence also emerged in light of the need to police our porous borders. As regional leaders, we recognised that the closure of many crossing points would lead to desperation and illegal crossings. 

•          I must reassure this Honourable House that very strict preventative protocols were effected on me and my delegation of four, prior to departure, upon arrival in Namibia, while there and upon return to Botswana. The effected quarantine measures were part of the battery of measures to protect me, my entourage and everyone else. 

•          On 23rd March 2020, all members of the Botswana Defence Force who were off duty were recalled to report to their duty stations to support Government efforts in curbing the spread and transmission of COVID-19; The Members of Botswana Police Service were also recalled from leave in preparation for assisting in the prevention and spread of the virus.

•          On 24th March 2020, His Honour the Vice President Mr. Slumber Tsogwane issued a public statement on the state of Botswana’s readiness in combating COVID-19 and announced the following measures; The restriction on the movement of people such as visiting neighbouring countries including Lesotho and Swaziland with the exception of the movement of goods and services. Batswana and residents of Botswana returning from these countries would be quarantined for 14 days. These measures applied with immediate effect; 

Travel to and from high risk countries as classified by the World Health Organisation was prohibited. To this end, non-citizens and non- residents coming from those countries were prohibited from entering Botswana at any point of entry. Botswana citizens and residents returning from these high risk countries would be subjected to a mandatory quarantine for 14 days with immediate effect; 

Similarly visits to prisons were suspended with immediate effect; 

Furthermore,  bars  and  liquor  restaurants  would  be closed and only liquor or bottle stores would remain open until further notice. These measures were effected immediately;

On the same day His Honour the Vice President, Mr Slumber Tsogwane addressed Ntlo ya Dikgosi on measures that Government had put in place to address the pandemic; 

•          On 26th March 2020 Government announced the establishment the COVID -19 Relief Fund and the suspension of the sale of liquor, certain trade and gambling licenses on 28th March 2020, in light of the COVID-19; 

•          It became clear from the impact that COVID-19 was having on the global economy that the declaration of a Public Health Emergency was limited in adequately addressing the possible social and economic negative effects it would have on our country. 

•          Therefore on 31st March 2020, on the strong advice of the High Level Task Force and Cabinet, I declared a State of Public Emergency in accordance with Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana. In this regard, the by-elections of the two council seats that were to be held in Mochudi and Metsimotlhabe following the unfortunate demise of the councillors were postponed under the State of Public Emergency Declaration which would not have been possible under the State of Public Health Declaration. As Honourable Members may be aware, elections in Botswana are constitutionally entrenched and therefore cannot be postponed under any circumstances. 

•          Mr. Speaker, under the State of Emergency the following shall be classified as essential services; 

(a)       Government printing and publishing services;

(b)      Immigration services; 

(c)       Custom services; 

(d)      Banking services; 

(e)       Central banking services; 

(f)       Stock exchange services; 

(g)       Insurance services; 

(h)      Pension administrator services; 

(i)        Fund managers; 

(j)        Postal services;

(k)       Electronic payment service providers; 

(l)        Maintenance and hardware services; 

(m)     General dealer; 

(n)      Supermarket; 

(o)       Butchery; 

(p)      Tuckshop services; 

(q)      Procurement services; 

(r)       Pest control services; 

(s)       Chemical supply services; 

(t)       Manufacturing services; 

(u)      Water services; 

(v)       Power services; 

(w)      Emergency services; 

(x)       Communication services; 

(y)       Medical aid services; 

(z)       Sanitation and refuse removals services; 

(aa)     Health services; 

(bb)    Legal practitioners; 

(cc)     Energy sector services; 

(dd)    Farming services, including crop production services; 

(ee)     Social services; 

(ff)      Private security services; 

(gg)     Petroleum services; 

(hh)    restaurant and takeaway services; 

(ii)       Bakery; 

(jj)       Courier and delivery services; 

(kk)     Funeral parlour services; 

(ll)       Administration of justice; 

(mm)  Air traffic control services; 

(nn)    Mining services and; 

(oo)     Any essential services as may be determined by the President and published by Notice in Government Gazette, and any other service in the supply chain connected with the provision. 

•          The following shall be classified as essential supplies;

 

(a)       Food supplies;

(b)      Medical equipment and supplies including sanitisers, surgical gloves, soap, antiseptics, bleach, surgical spirit, methylated spirit, disinfectants, baby wipes, wet wipes and surgical masks;

(c)       Pharmaceutical supplies; 

(d)      Agricultural supplies; 

(e)       Maintenance and hardware supplies; 

(f)       Communication supplies; 

(g)       Air supplies; 

(h)      Rail supplies; 

(i)        Water supplies, including chemicals and equipment required by the water sector; and 

(j)        Mining supplies,

 

•          During the period of the State of Emergency;

 

(a)       all businesses and offices may only continue their business operations by allowing their employees to work remotely from home except employees designated as essential service provider; and

(b)      All persons employed within the public service, parastatals and any other state owned entity, unless specifically designated as essential service providers, shall work remotely from home. 

•          During the period of a lockdown every person shall remain confined to their place of residence, inclusive of the yard space to avoid contact outside his household except;

 

(a)       To attend an urgent meeting of Cabinet;

(b)      To attend an urgent meeting of the National Assembly;

(c)       To attend an urgent meeting of a council;

(d)      To attend an urgent meeting of the National Task Force on COVID-19;

(e)       If the person is an essential service provider in the discharge of his duties; or 

(f)       If the person, not being an essential service provider, leaves his place of residence to access essential supplies as provided under sub regulation

 It is a bizarre paradigm of circumstances that a Head of State of a renowned democracy, should find himself in the paradoxical cul de sac of seeking to curtail individual freedoms rather than work more towards enhancing the liberties of his people. But such is the unenviable position that I find myself in, due to the equally bizarre circumstances of a topsy-turvy phenomenon that has shrunk the world into a besieged global village.

I am here today, to inform this August House, that the near apocalyptic potentials of the Novel COVID-19 virus cannot and will not play host or nurse to the normal processes of life that our forefathers prescribed for us in the Constitution. We are facing a spectre of such catastrophic national threats that we of this magnitude.

 It is against this ominous threat to the very essence of life as a nation in our beloved land that I have resorted to one remaining instrument open to my Government; and that is, approaching this Honourable House to seek its acquiescence in the declaration of the State of Public Emergency in this, our beloved land.

 I recall that when in 1999, when the former President, His Excellency Dr Festus Mogae declared Botswana’s first ever State of Emergency. He reacted to his critics that he had plunged the country into a constitutional crisis, by stating that the actual crisis would have been the disenfranchisement of the one hundred thousand (100 000) citizens of this country who would not have voted had he not declared the State of Emergency. The measure was taken for the purposes of amending the Electoral Act to include the inadvertently excluded voters from the Voters Roll.

Honourably, President Mogae downgraded the stigmatic perceptions of the critics of the State of Emergency, to the overriding and entrenched rights of the people to vote; he thus put the nation first. I put it to you too today to consider what would actually amount to an unforgivable act:- not declaring a state of emergency and not asking for it extension as provided for by the constitution and suffering the deleterious consequences of a collapse of the health system and mass illness and death or averting a crises by using the constitution to restore order of the health system not to be overwhelmed and as we see daily and painfully in countries with much more developed economies and health systems. The choice is for you Honourable MPs to make a difference in this country. You are the only ones who can.

On 6th April 2020, I met with leaders of opposition political parties that took part in the 2019 General Elections to appraise them on the state of our preparedness as a country in tackling the outbreak of COVID-19 and to inform them of my intention to request Parliament to extend the State of Emergency beyond the 21 days that was accorded to me by the Constitution to a period of six(6) months;

Yesterday, on 7th April 2020, the General Assembly met to discuss issues pertaining to the declaration of the State of Public Emergency.

 

CONSTRAINTS IN OUR HEALTH SYSTEM

Mr. Speaker, it is important to highlight that Botswana as a developing country does not have sufficient infrastructure and the technological expertise to deal with this pandemic. After a thorough audit of our health system we have noted a shortage of doctors, nurses and necessary medical equipment to comprehensively deal with the challenges of a full outbreak in our country.

As per the World Health Organization, Botswana’s healthcare system is ranked among one of the least prepared to respond to a disease outbreak. There are an estimated 6,000 beds with a 60 to 70% occupancy rate nationally, of which, there is about 120 critical care beds. Botswana’s nurse and doctor to population ratio is 1:300 and 1:2000 respectively. These figures are way below the WHO recommendations of 1:8 Nurses per general medical bed and 1:1000 doctor per population overall. Of note, recommended nurse to patient ratio in critical care setting is 1:2.

However, as a nation the biggest determining factor in how well we will fare in this fight is individuals and their adherence to the preventative measures in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and their attitudes towards addressing this pandemic will determine the efficacy of our response. Therefore as a people, we are the greatest weapon against COVID-19.

Mr. Speaker, Government has also taken the decision to centralise authority and power in fighting this pandemic. In this regard, all key decisions by the whole of Government regarding this pandemic will be sanctioned by members of the National COVID-19 Response Task Team.

 

STAKEHOLDER COLLABORATION

In response to this national security threat, I have deployed the Botswana Defence Force under the auspices of “aid to civil authorities” to support the police service and other security agencies to enforce the provisions of the state of emergency.

Government continues to partner with other organisations to prevent the transmission and spread of COVID-19 in the country. A number of hotels, through the facilitation of HATAB has offered accommodation facilities for free use as quarantine for the 14 days. These are Masa, Regent, the Big Five Hotel, Tlotlo Hotel and Conference Centre, Oasis Motel, Labama, Sunbeam, Ave Marie, Chobe Marina, Travel Lodge in Kasane and Gaborone, Cumberland Hotel, Manong Lodge, and the Botswana National Productivity Centre.

 

THE COVID-19 RELIEF FUND

Government has set up a fund with Two Billion Pula as seed money to the fund. Private companies and individuals continue to make in kind and financial contributions. I am pleased to note since its establishment on 26th March 2020, 21 million Pula has been contributed by various individuals and companies to this fund.

 

PROCUREMENT TO SUPPORT THE HEALTH SYSTEM

•          P2 Billion of essential requirements to be sources directly from source will be made available early. This excludes the costs of transportation.

 

SOCIAL DISTANCING

 Social Distancing is a strategy that seeks to slow down the transmission and spread of an infectious disease by adopting certain behaviours such as; 

a)        Suspending public gatherings of more than 10 people immediately for 30 days. This will go a long way in reducing the transmission and spread of COVID-19. 

b)        Advising individuals to maintain a distance of 1 to 2 meters between them and a maximum of 50 individuals every where 

c)         To ensure continued safety of other users of health facilities, individuals with cold symptoms (cough, fever, sore throat) and have had contact with returning travellers are encouraged to call the 24 hour help line 16649.

 

ADVICE TO THE PUBLIC 

a)        Frequently wash hands with soap and clean water or hand sanitizer, 

b)        Cover nose and mouth when sneezing with a flexed elbow or tissue,

c)         Avoid direct contact with anyone with cold or flu symptoms, 

d)        Avoid handshakes, hugs and kisses when greeting other people,

 Mr. Speaker, as representatives of the people, we have worked together in the past to address national issues and, therefore, I want to reiterate that we need each other more than ever in dealing with this dreadful virus which knows no political boundaries.

 I appreciate the fact that real change comes when visionary leaders creatively and constructively engage each other with a common goal. Our common goal today, is to protect the interests of this country and its people.

This can only be possible if our national politics reflects our unwavering commitment to our people, if all of us, regardless of our political affiliation, can work together for the good of our people.

 Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the ravaging effects of the pandemic it has been an eye opener for us in that we realise just how imperative it is that we prioritise the empowerment of our citizens and the diversification of our economy. In this regard, Government will present bills on citizen economic empowerment and the economic diversification drive in the next sitting of Parliament. We have identified products that can be manufactured locally such as food products, pharmaceutical products and chemicals products.

 I Mokgweertsi Masisi did not seek the Presidency of this country for reasons of ruling by decree; I did not campaign for election as President of this celebrated democracy for me to erode civil liberties upon coming into office; I did not dream of leading this proud and beloved nation, by diminishing its values of freedom and other enshrined rights that have made us the unique nation that we are.

 I Mokgweetsi Masisi rejoiced over my ascendency to the Presidency of this country with the prescription of a legacy that would enhance our freedoms, develop our country and lead our people beyond the middle income trap towards the first world status of development.

It is in this spirit that I pledge, and So Help Me God, that I intend using the declaration of the State of Emergency, solely for the purpose of protecting our people against the decimating potentials of the Novel COVID-19 virus.

I have no doubt, Honourable Members that you will take comfort in our system of checks and balances embedded in our constitution.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion there are choices and opportunities to see us through this pandemic. At the same time we can choose to be complacent but a responsible Government like ours will choose to take the pandemic head-on.

 I wish to take this opportunity to once again thank all our frontline staff; doctors, nurses as well the men and women in uniform among others, for their selfless and dedicated service to this nation. I also urge the nation to rally behind them and give them all the support and inspiration they need in these trying times.

 As a united nation I have no doubt that we will triumph over the adversities upon us. As a nation, during these trying times let us stand together as one. Our response to this pandemic will define our legacy and shape the future of our children. 

I thank you.

Pula!



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