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Botswana Declares Emergency on First Confirmed COVID Cases

Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi arrives to vote in general elections in Moshupa, west of Gaborone, Botswana, Oct. 23, 2019.

Botswana's President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Tuesday declared an indefinite state of emergency effective after the southern African country recorded its first confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Botswana had appeared to be keeping the virus at bay. But, on Monday night, the country's health minister announced three people, who had traveled abroad, tested positive.

Masisi said the emergency would take effect at 12:01 am Thursday and was needed because of the growing threat from the virus and the disease it causes – COVID-19.

“The return of some of our citizens and residents from high risk countries has also escalated the threat of the virus in our country. Therefore, after consultations with the relevant stakeholders, it has become clear to me that it is necessary to declare a state of public emergency for the purpose of taking appropriate and stringent measures to address the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Masisi said during the state of emergency people would not be allowed outside of their homes except for essential services, such as food and medicine.

The president said authorities would also enforce social distancing for at least 28 days.

Masisis said Botswana’s National Assembly would reconvene from a recess to decide the duration of the state of emergency.

Botswana had been one of the few countries in Africa without a recorded case of COVID-19.

But on Monday evening, Health Minister Lemogang Kwape announced three people, who had traveled abroad, tested positive for the virus.

"We have three Batswana who have tested positive for COVID-19. The three are two male and one female. They had travelled to the United Kingdom and Thailand. The three are kept in isolation at Sir Ketumile (hospital) and other secure places. They are in good health.”

Some Gaborone residents like Owen Marumo welcomed the president’s decision to declare a state of emergency.

“I feel this is long overdue. I think they should have taken these drastic measures earlier before we had any cases confirmed. But, then again, you forgive them because they do not have the benefit of experience. This is something new and unprecedented. We hope it’s a case of better late than never.”

Botswana a week ago closed its borders after neighbor South Africa recorded a jump in coronavirus cases and Zimbabwe saw its first death from the virus.

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