GABORONE, BOTSWANA — Botswana’s reported COVID-19 cases have declined despite the detection of the highly transmissible omicron variant of coronavirus. Botswana was one of the first two countries in the world, along South Africa to report cases of the Omicron variant.
While COVID-19 cases are surging in neighboring South Africa, Botswana has reported a decrease.
Last week, Botswana reported 19 cases of the new omicron variant after it was first detected in four diplomats visiting the southern African country.
But COVID-19 Task Force scientific advisor Mogomotsi Matshaba says the country’s overall figures remain low, with only 27 cases recorded between Monday and Thursday.
"The new number of active cases has decrease to 431, a positive development that we encourage all of you to continue to work together so that it remains low," Matshaba said. "The whole country remains green in terms of the COVID zones meaning the disease activity is relatively low, but it doesn’t mean there is no disease.”
Matshaba says the number of those infected with the new omicron variant is at 24, with all displaying mild symptoms and not requiring hospitalization.
He says the low number of cases despite the presence of a highly transmittable variant could be due to various factors.
He says, there could be a number of reasons for this. It could be vaccination or it could be the public education about the pandemic, Matshaba says. But, he warns the situation can change any moment.
Botswana is one of the few African countries to achieve the World Health Organization vaccination target of inoculating 10 percent of its population by the end of September.
At least 21.6 percent of its more than two million people are fully vaccinated, while nearly one million have received the first dose.
Due to the lower caseload, Botswana has decided against imposing stricter limits, unlike neighboring Zimbabwe.
Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, in an address to the nation, says despite the emergence of omicron, the situation remains stable.
"To date, all our key indicators remain stable," Masisi said. "This is comforting although it still does not warrant any complacency on our part in terms of behavior and other attitudinal patterns towards this dreadful disease. We are actively monitoring the evolving situation in view of the new variant of concern."
Masisi says it is unfortunate the country is paying the price for detecting and reporting the new variant to the world.
"It defeats the spirit of multilateral cooperation in dealing with this global pandemic," Masisi said. "The decision to ban our citizens from travelling to certain countries was hastily made and is not only unfair but it is also unjustified. The harshness of the decision has the effect of shaking our belief in the sincerity of declared friendship and commitment to equality and economic prosperity for us."
The outbreak of the omicron variant has seen most countries place travel bans particularly on southern African countries.
The variant has since been reported in countries across the globe.
Source: Voice of America