Every battle is won or lost before it begins. This signifies the importance of preparation before the real war begins, and that has actually been Botswana’s let down in the fight against COVID-19.
Unlike its regional neighbours, the country was doing relatively well as it had recorded just 42 deaths in 10 months by the end of December. This was despite a rise in infections.
For those months in 2020, it appeared Botswana had gotten a firm grip on the control of the disease.
But the last seven months have been particularly fatal, with more than 1,400 lives lost.
The death knock has become louder. The latest figures from the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force Team have shown that there was a rapid acceleration in the death rate in the recent months of May, June and July, as the country was hit by a third wave.
Botswana has now been declared a red zone by many European countries as they warn their citizens against coming here, and subjecting Baswana to vigorous medical examinations when they wish to take trips abroad.This clearly is a sign that we are losing the grip on the control of COVID-19.
As it is, the centre cannot hold. Despite imposing restrictions, including a ban on liquor sales and a night time curfew, things are continually falling apart.
The horses have bolted and authorities are clutching at straws without knowing exactly what to do, with the equally taking a serious knock.
There are so many contributing factors to the pandemic spiralling out of control.
Take for example, just this week, the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) revealed that over 800 nurses have been infected with COVID-19 while 23 have succumbed to the disease. These numbers paint a gloomy picture as these are frontliners in the fight against COVID-19.
BONU has attributed both the infections and death toll to the lack of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
They said their plea to government to avail PPE for all frontliners at all times have been ignored by authorities. It raises serious concerns, if to this day, 16 months since the first case was confirmed, we still have shortage of PPEs.
If we have such a large number of infections among the frontliners, who are charged with caring for the sickly, then it would prove hard to win this battle.
Another issue is adherence to the protocols by members of the public and the failure by law enforcers to ensure compliance. Whilst government has imposed regulations restricting the movement of people, numbers for gatherings, and wearing of masks in public, adherence seems to be problematic.
Gatherings are allowed a maximum of 50 people but there are incidents where the numbers are exceeded with no social distancing as welladhered to. In some cases, the police turn a blind eye.
Some activities such as Sunday soccer are not allowed, but some people continue to ignore this and engage in such activities without being brought to book.
Whilst government eventually closed schools, it took far too long to make that decision despite the infection rates going out of hand.
It was clear that schools had become super spreaders of COVID-19, but government was very hesitant to make the right call at the right time.
We are fighting an invincible enemy, as such every second wasted without making a calculated decision could prove critical at the end.
Finally, is the issue of the vaccine. Botswana is way behind in terms of inoculating its population eligible for vaccination. At the time of writing this article, 209,890 people had received their first dose of vaccine while 121, 518 had been fully vaccinated.
Although President Mokgweetsi Masisi has said there is an earnest push to save Botswana’s population from COVID-19, the country is currently facing serious shortages of vaccine.
At first, it was expected that Botswana would be the first African country to vaccine its entire adult vaccination after the President announced that it had struck a deal for the procurement and supply of vaccine. However, this looks unlikely.
Just last week, government announced that about 15,000 people will not be able to get their second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in time after it could not get the ordered doses.
The vaccine roll out has proven problematic from the onset and there seems to be no signs in sight to resolve it.
As it is, the targeted group of people under Phase 2 (45-54) living in the city, are forced to travel outside Gaborone in search of vaccination points that still have CoVID-19 vaccine doses. Meanwhile, across the country, hospitals and mortuaries are facing increasing unprecedented pressure as admissions and deaths toll are shooting through the roof. The cases are alarming.
All these are indications that Botswana is slowly losing the war on COVID-19, although it did not have to be this way as the warning signs were long signaled.