Is Botswana winning the COVID-19 war? YES

Francistown Bus rank during lockdown PIC KEOAGILE BONANG
Francistown Bus rank during lockdown PIC KEOAGILE BONANG

While disease control measures such as curfews, lockdowns and the ban of alcohol sale have not been proven highly successful in combating the spread of COVID-19, government has had its fair share of wins when it comes to crisis management.

Beijing’s laws have resulted in China’s containment of the virus and enabled a return to normality so perhaps the recent control measures like alcohol ban, night curfews, schools closure and regional lockdowns in Botswana are laying the foundation for a strong containment. In the end of 2020, before the Alpha and now Delta variants hit the country, statistics revealed that Bptswana had the potential of winning the crisis with just 42 deaths. The country had registered fewer deaths and by then it had began securing vaccines. Botswana made an upfront payment to COVAX late last year to secure vaccine doses under a two-dose regime.

Fast forward to now, COVID-19 infection rates have risen significantly and Botswana has registered 1.485 deaths. President Mokgweetsi Masisi is confident that all will be well, as he had managed to secure enough vaccines for every adult population in Botswana. Masisi in an address earlier this month said government plans to have vaccinated every eligible Motswana by the end of 2022. As of July 23, 2021, 209, 890 people had received their first dose of vaccine while 121, 518 have been fully vaccinated. With an estimated total eligible population of 1.53 million, Botswana has already started first doses for people aged 45-54.

In March, Botswana received a donation of 30,000 COVID-19 vaccines from India known as COVISHIELD. COVISHIELD is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured in India under licence from the Serum Institute of India (SII). SII is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer currently pushing out more than 50 million doses each month.

Meanwhile, government recently purchased Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine from China. The Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine also known as the CoronaVac, is a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Beijing-based pharmaceutical company, Sinovac.

In terms of upcoming vaccines Masisi said Botswana expects to receive 50,000 Mordena vaccines and at least 50,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines by December 2021.

Moreover, last month US vaccine producer, Moderna, confirmed a bilateral deal to supply Botswana with COVID-19 vaccines. The supply deal is believed to be one of the first Moderna has clinched with an African country as most of its distribution has been for the US market. The Moderna deal is considered as a scoop for government as the US Company’s vaccine is among the most-praised in the world with a reported 94% effectiveness to prevent symptomatic COVID after the second dose.

Responding to an inquiry from this publication, US Embassy in Botswana revealed that Botswana is on the list of African countries set to receive additional vaccines. While it is not known when the country will receive the additional vaccines from COVAX, the US in partnership with the African Union (AU) and COVAX, will donate 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to 49 African countries, Botswana included. Though Botswana is not part of the initial batch of countries that will receive the dose, Biden's administration has also pledged that it will provide 500 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to about 100 countries over the next two years, a significant portion of those will also be deployed to Africa.

Still on the issue, Masisi has also preached behavioral change, which is key in fighting the pandemic. In his last public address earlier this month President Masisi said the virus can only be defeated through strict adherence to set protocols. He added that law enforcement officers have noticed an increase in non-adherence to COVID-19 health protocols, a development that he regarded as worrisome and unfortunate.

Masisi further said law enforcement officers would take stern measures against those who do not adhere to protocols. The police also issued stiff penalties on enforcement of COVID-19 regulations recently. The police revealed that members of the public charged for disobeying COVID-19 laws are in most cases given minimum fines.

“As you are no doubt aware, the country is experiencing an exponential increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and it is apparent that the low fines could be attributed to this lack of compliance with COVID-19 protocols. As a consequence, you are hereby directed that with immediate effect, all offenders charged for violating COVID-19 laws should face maximum penalties in order to achieve compliance thereto. This directive is binding on all commanders and I expect strict adherence at all times,” read a police Savigram.

Editor's Comment
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