Majority say relief assistance was distributed unfairly.
- Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: Almost one-third (32%) of Batswana say they or a member of their household became ill with or tested positive for COVID-19, while 35% say a household member temporarily or permanently lost a job, business, or primary source of income due to the pandemic.
- Attitudes toward vaccines: More than nine in 10 citizens (92%) of Batswana say they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Only 4% say they are unlikely to try to get the vaccine. A slim majority (53%) of respondents say they trust the government "somewhat" or "a lot" to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe.
- Government response to COVID-19: About three-quarters (74%) of citizens say the government has managed the response to the COVID-19 pandemic "fairly well" or "very well." More than six in 10 respondents say they are "fairly satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the government's efforts to minimise disruptions to children's education (63%) and to ensure that health facilities are resourced to deal with the pandemic (61%). But seven in 10 Batswana (70%) believe that COVID-19 relief assistance was distributed unfairly, and 68% think "some" or "a lot" of the resources intended for the pandemic response were lost to corruption. Eight in 10 citizens (81%) approve of using the police or security forces to enforce public health mandates during a pandemic, but fewer than half endorse postponing elections (45%) and censoring media reporting (37%) in response to a public health emergency.
- Looking ahead: Citizens are divided on whether the government is prepared to deal with future public health emergencies: 46% say it is, while 45% disagree. More than half (56%) of respondents say the government needs to invest more in preparations for future health emergencies, even if it means fewer resources are available for other health services.
Three days after reporting the country's first case of COVID-19 on 30 March 2020, the government of Botswana declared a state of emergency and imposed an initial 28-day lockdown, allowing the country to prepare quarantine facilities in case of an upsurge in cases (Komane, 2020).
After four waves of sharp increases in the number of infections and hospital admissions over the next two years, Botswana has recorded a total of 329,905 cases and 2,797 deaths as of 1 June 2023, with no new cases in recent days (World Health Organization, 2023).
The pandemic response has been an interesting learning experience for Botswana. Quick action and assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO) helped the country contain the outbreak. Training was provided for health workers, the media, and other stakeholders, and planning was formalised and coordinated through key documents such as the Public Health Multi-Hazard Plan, National Action Plan for Health Security, and COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. Pandemic-related restrictions on movement and activities, which continued at various levels of severity during 2020-2022, were generally accepted by citizens, with few public protests.
As of 1 June 2023, more than 1.95 million Batswana (75% of the population) had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (WHO, 2023).
In 2020, the government also introduced a broad COVID-19 wage-support scheme to help mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic as the national economy contracted by 8.7% (KPMG, 2020; World Bank, 2023).
A recent Afrobarometer survey confirms the pandemic's massive toll on Batswana, both through health consequences and economic effects. But self-reported vaccine uptake is high, and most Batswana express satisfaction with the government's response to the pandemic, even though a majority believe that funds intended for the pandemic were lost to corruption.
Batswana are divided on whether the government is prepared to deal with future public health emergencies, but a majority say it needs to invest more in preparations for such a crisis.
Prof. Mogopodi Lekorwe Mogopodi is the Afrobarometer national investigator in Botswana
Thabo Bogopa Thabo Bogopa is a researcher.
Hazel Ntuane Hazel Ntuane is a post-graduate student in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies, University of Botswana.