Gaborone — The number of people tested for COVID-19 in Botswana increased when the country's capacity for testing improved and people returned from high risk countries.
Dr Oratile Mfokeng-Selei, a public health specialist in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, said this in an interview over the weekend.
As at Saturday, 1 753 people had been placed under quarantine and 259 suspected cases had been recorded.
Ninety tests had returned negative and 169 were awaiting results. .
Dr Mfokeng-Selei allayed fears that lack of confirmed cases was due to minimal testing.
"We do not have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Botswana. We have been testing as per the global guidelines of who gets tested. We have been testing anyone arriving from countries, which have cases and we have also asked anyone with symptoms to come through," Dr Mfokeng-Selei said.
She added that the testing guidelines were different in situations where there were confirmed imported cases or local transmission.
"If we have confirmed imported cases, we would need to test people who came into contact with that patient. Then if we have community or local transmission, then we would have to randomly test anyone with symptoms. But for now, because we don't have these, we cannot be testing the bigger numbers some people are expecting," she said.
She also stressed that with the help of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Africa and the World Health Organisation (WHO), government had worked towards improving the capacity to test larger numbers and to be able to handle cases if they emerged.
Dr Mfokeng-Selei said unlike what had been alleged by social media in COVID-19 debates, it was untrue that government had concealed some confirmed cases.
"We have no reason to try and paint Botswana clean and say we have no cases. We report the factual statistics from results tests. The moment we have a confirmed case we would get into emergency mode...yes it is emergency now; but it would be greater then and we would immediately want the public to know there is a case and we would need to locate those who had been in contact with the patient for testing," she said.
Isolation centres as well as quarantine facilities had now been better equipped, she added.
"We have isolation centres where we place people who meet a case definition, that is symptoms plus travel history. These isolation centres include the Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital in Gaborone, Ntshe Clinic in Francistown, Peleng East Clinic in Lobatse, Matshwane Clinic in Maun, Old Sekgoma Memorial Hospital in Serowe, a former hospice space in Ghanzi as well as some rooms at the Kasane hospital," she revealed.
"Some facilities now have the equipment and personnel to treat mild case, while the Sir Ketumile Masire facility now has high level care equipment including ventilators and machines that can look after those that need critical care," Dr Mfokeng-Selei said.
Quarantine facilities were used for people who did not have symptoms, but had been to high risk environments such as South Africa, which has now experienced local transmission.
Some hotels availed their facilities for such.
Dr Mfokeng-Selei said the best thing would be for the public to follow prevention measures such as ensuring hygiene, isolation and keeping social distance.
She said since the virus was transmitted through droplets that, even after coughing or sneezing could not travel more than a two metre distance, but could survive in some surfaces, social distancing and the regular washing of hands was critical.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>