COVID cases, hospital admissions rising, MoH warns

Lagging: The country's vaccination rates have been below authorities' targets in recent months PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Lagging: The country's vaccination rates have been below authorities' targets in recent months PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG

The Health Ministry says the numbers of COVID-19 cases have been “doubling and doubling” in the past two weeks, with hospital admissions also increasing, signalling the possible start of a fifth wave, Mmegi has learnt.

Briefing members of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee this afternoon, the ministry’s permanent secretary, Grace Muzila said authorities were seriously concerned about the numbers of cases and admissions, in recent weeks.

She revealed that as at Friday, 18 people were hospitalised in the Greater Gaborone region, with some patients also at Sir Ketumile Teaching Hospital, the country’s primary referral facility for COVID-19.

“On the numbers side, we have seen these doubling and then doubling in the last week, while the colour of the map has also been changing and that’s a concern,” Muzila said. “When we see cases without admissions, we are not that worried, but when we see cases with admissions to the level of Sir Ketumile Hospital, it’s a concern. “The message from the Ministry is that honestly it’s worrying because we are starting to see admissions.”

Health Services director, Pamela Smith-Lawrence said the country was “seemingly entering a fifth wave,” tracking trends in the region particularly South Africa, where cases surged recently. She said health authorities had noted that Botswana’s cases usually rise three to four weeks after South Africa experiences an increase, but the neighbouring country’s cases had start dipping.

Smith-Lawrence said the focus was on improving the country’s vaccination rate, particularly the number of people coming forward for boosters. Figures shared with the legislators indicate that the rate for fully vaccinated people in the country has been stagnant at 62% for some time, while the rate for boosters is still less than 40%.

“For the past few months up to now, the few hospitalisations we have had involved people vaccinated when the programme began last year between March and July and some of them did not come for their second doses or boosters,” she said. “Immunity wanes over time and we have seen some people with that issue. “Some of them are the elderly, like over 50 years and above and we are losing a few of them in that bracket.”

According to the last available figures, the country had 1,276 active COVID-19 cases as at May 31, up from 586 as at May 24. The numbers of fully vaccinated people within that period rose 3,432 to 1,507,508. Those who received booster shots over the same period rose by just under 7,000.

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