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Botswana’s Capital Back in Lockdown After COVID-19 Cases Double

Gaborone's Central Business District is deserted as the capital returns to lockdown, in Botswana, July 31, 2020. (Mqondisi Dube/VOA)

Botswana has put its capital, Gaborone, back into a two-week lockdown starting Friday, closing schools and restricting movements, after confirmed local COVID-19 transmissions doubled this week.

Botswana’s health minister, Dr. Lemogang Kwape, said a return to lockdown was needed after the capital saw what he called a "worrying rise" in local cases of COVID-19.

"I now regret to inform you that the situation has worsened in the last 24 hours," he said. "Botswana has recorded 30 new positive cases of COVID-19, with the majority of the cases emanating from schools in the greater Gaborone."

Authorities closed schools in Gaborone on Friday and, except for essential workers, resumed requiring temporary permits for anyone to move around.

Schools elsewhere in Botswana remain open.

Confirmed, local transmissions of the virus in Gaborone doubled in the last week, from 70 to 140, most of them recorded in schools.

Kwape said contact tracing had become more complex.

He said some transport operators were failing to keep a passenger register, as required by COVID-19 regulations.

"During the course of this week the disease has taken an unexpected turn. This now requires that we place the greater Gaborone zone under lockdown for a minimum period of two weeks to enable us to contain the disease," Kwape said.

This is the second time Botswana has returned the capital to lockdown after lifting the restrictions since the pandemic began.

Botswana, with 804 recorded cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, has been relatively unscathed by the virus, compared to other African countries.

Botswana's neighbor, South Africa, is the worst-hit on the continent, with confirmed COVID-19 cases approaching half a million.

The majority of Botswana’s confirmed cases were along the border – and most of them foreigners.

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