Botswana extends emergency measures to combat virus

GABORONE, BOTSWANA (AP) — Botswana has extended its state of emergency for a further six months to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The southern African country will maintain several restrictions, including limits to international travellers and tourism, in contrast to neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe, which are opening up their economies.

Botswana, a diamond-rich, landlocked country of 2.3 million people, has reported 3,172 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 16 deaths, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The disease burden has made it clear and imperative for us to extend the state of public emergency in the interest of the public,” said President Mokgweetsi Masisi, before Parliament voted to continue the emergency on Monday night.

Botswana will continue to restrict public gatherings but it has re-opened schools. Facemasks must be worn in all public places.

The government has spent nearly all of its BWP2 billion (USD171 million) COVID-19 relief fund to provide wage subsidies for ailing businesses, distribution of food to needy families and to buy medical supplies for hospitals.

Leading opposition figures criticised the extension of the state of emergency.

“Households are under severe financial strain with wages in the tourism sector cut and the wage subsidy not in place to assist them,” said Botswana Congress Party leader Dumelang Saleshando.