Gaborone — Some 94 Batswana, who were left stranded overseas after cancellation of commercial flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finally arrived home on Wednesday afternoon.
Their trip was made possible by a Kenyan airways flight that was chartered by the government of Botswana.
The returning Batswana were received by the minister and officials and Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Dr Unity Dow, together with those from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, on their arrival at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.
The arriving group included among others; completing students, and citizens who were on personal or business expeditions.
In an interview with the media, Dr Dow said eight more Batswana, who came by a flight that was destined for Namibia, were expected to come to Gaborone by road later that night.
She said government took a decision to hire the aircraft to necessitate their travel back home. "As a government we have established that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our people in foreign countries were affected by the travel restrictions. As such, they were stranded."
Dr Dow said other than shortage of transport, some could not make it home on time for various reasons, and therefore government intervened to make their journey home possible.
She said an arrangement would be made on how those brought home would reimburse government for their travel expenses.
"The cases will be reviewed individually as some were returning students and therefore their travel expenses were to be covered by the responsible ministry. We understand that some of them were stranded due to financial constraints and other challenges, and therefore their pleas will also be taken into consideration," she said.
Dr Dow said the returning Batswana were from 10 different countries and the chartered Ethiopian flight collected them from Nairobi, Kenya.
She also added that there were still more Batswana overseas who were eager to return home, but that was not possible as they were no flights where they were, adding that it was currently costly to travel as borders were still closed.
Dr Dow also said the government was still communicating with neighbouring countries, who were in the process of ferrying their people back to, where possible, assist Batswana to travel back home.
"I am delighted that our plan was a success and relatives were happy to finally meet with their beloved family members," she said.
Some parents, who were at the airport to welcome their children, also expressed satisfaction and applauded government for making the trip possible.
One of the parents said her daughter completed her studies in Florida, USA, but could not travel as a result of COVID-19 travel ban. "My daughter was lonely as she was now staying alone in an apartment. I am happy that she is finally here," she said.
One other parent said her son had also completed his studies in Hong Kong and was also stranded due to the travel ban.
Community Health Services Advisor, Mr Samuel Kolane said the arriving passengers were to be ferried by buses to their quarantine facilities, where they would be housed for 14 days and undergo mandatory COVID-19 screening.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>