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Botswana Minister 'Concerned' With COVID-19 Stigmatisation

Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words "Omicron SARS-CoV-2" in this illustration taken, November 27, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Botswana's Minister of Health on Sunday said he was "concerned" about "attempts to stigmatize" his country following the identification of a new coronavirus variant of concern.

Dr Edwin Dikoli referred to the naming convention of the World Health Organization (WHO), calling the variant “omicron” after a letter in the Greek alphabet to avoid an association with the countries it was first identified in.

Botswana's International Affairs Minister Dr Lemoogang Kwape echoed the call to "take a cue from the WHO", adding that the governemnt was in conversation with the U.S. and the E.U. to facilitate vaccine production in the country.

Botswana's Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Eric Molale, spoke about discussions to lower the age threshold for vaccinations to help curb the spread of the virus.

The remarks come as countries around the world have imposed travel restrictions on a number of southern African countries, including Botswana, to limit the spread of the omicron variant just days after it was identified by researchers in South Africa.

The WHO had commended South Africa and Botswana for quickly informing the world about the new variant.

The act first, ask questions later approach reflected growing alarm about the emergence of a potentially more contagious variant nearly two years into a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people, upended lives and disrupted economies across the globe.