Paul Nyathi|In news that is certainly not be good for most Zimbabweans, neighbouring Botswana will continue under the ongoing state of public emergency for another six months in an attempt to curtail the spread and transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s parliament said Monday.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi approached the national assembly during an extraordinary meeting of parliament to seek a resolution for the country to be placed under a state of emergency.
Addressing the meeting, Masisi said it is regrettable that the southern African country has recently experienced an exponential rise in local transmissions after lifting movement restrictions.
“Indeed, COVID-19 has now become a national health and security threat,” said Masisi, adding that extension of the state of emergency provides a better option for safeguarding the lives of Batswana (citizens of Botswana) while controlling and containing the disease.
“Now more than ever, it has become necessary to strengthen our national response to the pandemic given our fragile and limited resources,” he said.
The southern African country will maintain several restrictions, including limits to international travelers and tourism by keeping the borders shut, in contrast to neighboring South Africa and Zimbabwe, which are opening up their economies.
A huge number of Zimbabweans survive on cross border trading with Botswana and thousands of other Zimbabweans are living in that country and will remain locked down without seeing their relatives for much longer.
Botswana, a diamond-rich, landlocked country of 2.3 million people, has reported 3,172 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 16 deaths, according to figures released Tuesday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The disease burden has made it clear and imperative for us to extend the state of public emergency in the interest of the public,” said President Mokgweetsi Masisi, before parliament voted to continue the emergency on Monday night.
Botswana will continue to restrict public gatherings but it has reopened schools and allows the sale of liquor during limited hours. Facemasks must be worn in all public places.
The government has spent nearly all of its 2 billion Botswanan pula ($171 million) COVID-19 relief fund to provide wage subsidies for ailing businesses, distribution of food to needy families and to buy medical supplies for hospitals.
Leading opposition figures criticized the extension of the state of emergency.
“Households are under severe financial strain with wages in the tourism sector cut and the wage subsidy not in place to assist them,” said Dumelang Saleshando, leader of the opposition party, the Botswana Congress Party.
Botswana initially declared a state of public emergency starting from April 2 following the pronouncement by the World Health Organization on March 11 that the COVID-19 outbreak was a global pandemic.