Police have promised tougher enforcement of COVID-19 regulations following violation by a number of liquor outlets over the weekend.
But imbibers could not hide their excitement though the President issued a strong message pleading with citizens not to flout COVID-19 protocols as that might lead to the banning of liquor sales.
Contrary to the President’s message, videos and photos circulated across social media platforms showing excited people applauding him for having finally quenched their thirst following the lifting of the ban on alcohol sale.
The behaviour of consumers of alcohol was strongly condemned by a number of Batswana which forced the Ministry of Health and Wellness to issue a press release condemning non-compliance to COVID-19 protocols by some liquor outlets.
The Ministry said it “had noted with shock and disbelief that some videos that circulated across social media platforms, depicting blatant disregard for COVID-19 safety protocols by some liquor outlets, contrary to the Emergency (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 currently in place”.
“The behaviour displayed by some patrons and liquor establishments over the weekend, has the potential to reverse the gains made so far, in stemming the spread of COVID-19. Botswana, like the rest of the world, has experienced the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the media release by the Acting Director of Health Services, Dr Pamela Smith-Lawrence.
“The country should not revert to the dark days of the last few months where infections were increasing at an alarming rate, and people’s lives were lost in the process. Incidents such as those reflected in the videos alluded to, undoubtedly expose many more people to the dreadful disease, which can overwhelm the already overstretched health system.” Dr Smith-Lawrence stated it was not the wish of the ministry to recommend a return to stricter restrictions in the country. However, she said when the behaviour such as what transpired over the weekend persists, such actions will be inevitable.
“The ministry will not hesitate to cause for any action that can save the lives of the people of this country, even if that action leads to tougher restrictions. The ministry will continue to monitor the situation and will act accordingly in line with existing laws and regulations meant to curb the spread of diseases such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said the media release.
Subsequently, some liquor outlets were reported to have been charged maximum fines for violating COVID-19 regulations. Quizzed on what transpired, the police strongly condemned the imbibers’ behaviours and promised tougher law enforcement.
The Botswana Police Service’s Public Relations Officer, Assistant Commissioner Dipheko Motube said nothing has changed and police will no longer spend time explaining COVID-19 regulations before issuing fines to offenders.
He said following what transpired last week following the closure of bars when imbibers and liquor outlets operated and disobeyed the government’s directive his office will intensify the law enforcement by arresting and charging transgressors.
“Poor adherence to COVID-19 protocols risks the lives of other people. We shall continue to enforce the law. The President has issued regulations hence they should be followed to save lives. We have lost lives due to COVID-19 and we will no longer entertain offenders. The government has done all to combat the virus and the responsibility lies with individuals and the business community to curb the spread of the virus,” he said.
Motube stated that the police countrywide were on their toes as imbibers had grouped themselves in front of bars and hosted chill sessions in homes and open spaces. He said there were instances in which after discovering police visibility on the ground some drinkers decided to host chill sessions at their homes instead.
He added that through police patrols they managed to identify the culprits and charged them for disobeying COVID-19 protocols. He pleaded with imbibers not to support liquor outlets in violating protocols.
The move forced Capello Restaurant management located at the Central Business District to issue an apology stating that it was aware of what transpired at their restaurant.
“The company apologises unreservedly for allowing non-compliance of the COVID-19 protocols and the condition of our licence,” reads Capello’s notice.
“We wish to assure our customers and the public at large that this unfortunate incident will not happen again. At Capello we care about the well-being of our clients and encourage our customers to observe COVID-19 protocols.”