Botswana starts testing for COVID-19

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 12:47 |
Botswana’s Minister of Health and Wellness Lemogang Kwape speaks during a media briefing on Coronavirus Pandemic in Gaborone, Botswana, March 19, 2020. (Xinhua/Tshekiso Tebalo)

Botswana began testing for new COVID-19 cases in-house Wednesday, meaning the southern African country can process its own samples going forward rather than relying on South Africa.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana made the announcement Thursday when addressing journalists to give an update on the highly contagious disease in Gaborone, Botswana's capital city.

"We have set up our own national health laboratory as of Wednesday this week," said Masisi, adding that the country's national health laboratory has capacitated the southern African country not to rely on sending samples to South Africa.

According to Masisi, samples' results are expected to be out in 24 or 72 hours - a much improved turnaround time compared to the three to four days when the samples were still being taken to South Africa's national infectious centre for communicable diseases.

As at March 18, Botswana had registered 25 suspected cases of COVID-19 of which 23 of them had tested negative while the outcome of the remaining two is still pending, Masisi said.

Malaki Tshipayagae, the director in charge of coronavirus within Botswana's ministry of health and wellness, said Botswana received testing kits from the World Health Organization (WHO), as assistance towards setting up the health laboratory.

Tshipayagae said WHO further assisted Botswana by training 27 medical officers who are in the collection of specimen from those suspected to have contracted the disease and testing of the swabs at the laboratory.

Early this week, Botswana imposed a blanket travel ban to individuals from China, Japan, Iran, the United States of America (US), United Kingdom (UK), Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and India.

Furthermore, Batswana (citizens of Botswana) and residents returning from the above-mentioned countries, which Botswana classifies as high risk countries, will be subjected to a mandatory quarantine for two weeks, as per the protocol.

Botswana also suspended issuance of Visas at ports of entry and at all its embassies before cancelling current visas with immediate effect until further notice.

Public gatherings, which include religious activities, sporting events, conferences, wedding celebrations, music concerts, parties and gymnasiums, of more than 50 people have been totally suspended with immediate effect for a period of a month.

Besides total suspension of public gatherings, locals have been urged to maintain a distance of one to two meters between individual persons and a maximum of 50 individuals everywhere at banks, restaurants, shops, pharmacies and government service departments.

All citizens and residents of Botswana are to postpone travel to affected countries to minimize the risk of coronavirus. (Xinhua)

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