The Ministry of Health and Wellness is due to announce the date from when all foreign arrivals in Botswana will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, Mmegi has established.
The move is one of the measures to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, first identified by Botswana about a week ago. The variant’s high number of mutations put the world under panic, with many countries imposing flight and travel bans on southern Africa, including Botswana.
The new requirement was first revealed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi in a televised address on Wednesday as part of measures to control the spread of the variant.
“To enhance our protection at ports of entry, we will without fail ensure strict enforcement of the 72-hour negative PCR policy. Furthermore, a valid vaccine certificate will be required on arrival,” he said.
Yesterday, Health Ministry spokesperson, Dr Christopher Nyanga said the details of the new move would be announced soon.
“We are going to communicate properly and say when this starts,” he said.
It is presently unclear which vaccines Botswana will accept at the borders or whether the country will require full or partial vaccination of travellers.
With the move, Botswana becomes one of very few African countries requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination before entry. At the moment, the country requires that visitors produce a negative PCR test taken no less than 72 hours prior to arrival at the border. In May, travellers from India were required to undergo mandatory quarantine for ten days, although it is unclear if this requirement is still in place.
From December 10, all arrivals in Malawi will be required to show valid, full vaccination certificates and those without will be given a free jab, before entering the country. This will be over and above the 72-hour PCR test requirement.
Earlier in the week, acting director of Health Services, Dr Pamela Smith-Lawrence said Botswana was ramping up its surveillance capabilities with a target to ensure that every COVID-19 case going forward is genomically assessed. Although the country is among the leading African states in genomic surveillance of COVID-19, this is done on a random sampling basis, with just over 2,000 samples produced thus far.
“We have decided that because we currently have very few positive cases, all cases found should be sequenced going forward,” she said this week, at an engagement with the Tourism Ministry and diplomats. “With more delivery of vaccines, we are also considering lowering the age of vaccination to the 12-to-17-year age group.We also would like to start offering booster vaccinations, if these travel bans do not disrupt the arrivals of vaccines,” she said.
This week, the country received 525, 330 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as part of a two million dose paid for and arranged directly with the manufacturer. Masisi said the remaining doses were expected before the end of the month.
He also said Statistics Botswana had recently revised the number of people aged 18 years and above in the country and thus eligible for vaccines, which in turn meant the percentage of fully vaccinated people had risen to 68.4 percent.
In September, Masisi had announced a target of at least 64 percent of the eligible population receiving a first dose of vaccination by the end of the year.