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Botswana declares state of emergency after reporting first Covid-19 cases

BOTSWANA– The Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Tuesday declared a state of emergency from midnight on April 2 until further notice after the country reported its first three confirmed cases of novel coronavirus.

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Masisi said Botswana’s Constitution empowered him as president to declare a state of emergency at any time. Where the president declared this when parliament was not sitting, such as state of emergency was valid for 21 days.

“I have considered that proceeding in this manner would not allow for consultation and buy-in across the political spectrum because this pandemic knows no political boundaries,” he said in a speech broadcast on television.

“I have also considered that 21 days would not be sufficient to employ the necessary measures to fight this pandemic,” he added, saying Parliament would meet and he would seek a resolution for the state of emergency to continue for longer.

“The reason for summoning Parliament to meet is to allow for healthy and honest debate and also allow for  Parliament to then authorise for a duration that is sufficient to fight the pandemic,” said Masisi.

He said during the period of “extreme lockdown” all individuals across the country would be expected to adhere to a more severe form of social distancing where movement outside homes would only be allowed for those performing essential services and transporting essential goods. 

“Those involved will be permitted to travel using the Covid-19 travel permit that will be issued by government,” said the president.

On Monday health minister Lemogang Kwape announced Botswana had recorded its first three confirmed cases of Covid-19, saying the two men and a woman had travelled to the United Kingdom and Thailand.

They were kept in isolation at the Sir Ketumile Hospital and other secure places.

“We have now moved from prevention to containment, in the past we have preached prevention but, now that we have cases we have moved to prevention and containment at the same time,” Kwape said.

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