Botswana: Extension Necessary

Gaborone — The exponential rise in the COVID-19 burden makes it imperative to extend the state of public emergency by a further six months in order for regulations to be enacted in the public interest, President Mokgweetsi Masisi told Parliament yesterday.

Noting that in early April until July 21, the country recorded 113 cases and only one death but 1 968 cases and a further 15 deaths between July 23 and September 27, Dr Masisi said the six month extension of the state of public emergency was necessary for the country to continue battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing an extraordinary meeting of the National Assembly, President Masisi said the measure would allow for promulgation of different set of regulations geared at preventing the further spread of the disease and its burden on the nation.

"These regulations include controlling the movement of people, restricting public gatherings, the prohibition of entry into the republic by non-citizen, suspension of the retrenchment of workers and certain laws, as well as the provision of payment of people affected by the regulation," Dr Masisi said.

The President explained that such instruments, necessary to fight the burden of the disease, were not within the scope of the powers of the Director of Health Services.

He reminded MPs that, acting on the advice of the COVID-19 presidential task team, he had first declared a state of public emergency with effect from April 2 for an initial 21 days which later extended by Parliament for six months up to October 2.

With the expiry of the six months, President Masisi said a further six months was being sought in order for the country to decisively deal with the disease burden, which had exponentially grown over the past two months.

Giving an overview of the first six months, President Masisi said the state of public emergency had allowed government to enact 62 pieces of statutory instruments to prevent the spread of the disease.

They included the control of the movement of people, limiting the number of people at social gatherings and the compulsory wearing of facial masks, President Masisi said adding that other regulations introduced pertained to operation of businesses, closure of schools and liquor outlets and suspension of public transportation usage.

In addition to instituting a 49-day national lockdown and two subsequent lockdowns for the greater Gaborone zone, government came up with a COVID-19 response plan to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic, said Dr Masisi.

He explained that government contributed P2 billion seed capital while the private sector, civil society organisations, individuals and development partners contributed approximately P134.5 million plus donations in kind amounting to around P62.7 million.

Expenditure to date stood over P1.8 billion out of which approximately P831 million was spent on the wage subsidy, about P350 million on food relief, P396 million on health supplies with the balance going safety health officers, psychological services as well as the evacuation of or financial assistance to Batswana outside the country, the President said.

He said government had since prepared an economic recovery and transformation plan, which included a recently approved supplementary estimate of a P1.3 billion industry support fund for helping businesses to weather the effects of the pandemic.

Source : BOPA

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