COVID-19 in Botswana: A brief report by a front line official
Ivan Nkaiwa is a qualified Environmental Health Practitioner and one of the first officers to be employed by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to establish Port Health Services at major points of entry in Botswana in 2010. He is the RSTMH Country Ambassador for Botswana.
Confirmed cases and deaths caused by COVID-19 continue to rise globally and as of 22 April 2020 Botswana has tested 5,023 people with 22 confirmed positive and only 1 death recorded (based on reports by the Ministry of Health and Wellness).
Measures have already been put in place to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19. On 24 March, Botswana’s government began to place all nationals and residents from other countries affected with COVID-19 under a 14-day mandatory quarantine. These quarantines were established at specific sites designated by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Non-citizens were not allowed to enter the country unless delivering essential commodities. This travelling ban was exercised with the aim to prevent imported cases.
In order to further strengthen this effort of preventing imported cases, some local ports of entry (mainly borders) are closed with only major borders operating. Currently (as of 22 April), Botswana is on a 28-day lockdown with restriction of movements within the country in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Movement is only allowed to essential services employees and only with movement permits issued by the government. At main ports of entry between Botswana and South Africa, screening as well as collection of travelers’ information (both manually and through the government system) has intensified. Port Health Officials are employed and stationed at all ports of entry in line with the International Health Regulations 2005. They are integral frontline officials with the main objective of implementing preventative measures on COVID-19 and other diseases of international concern.
At ports of entry all people arriving into Botswana go through temperature screening. This screening protocol, implemented by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, will strengthen data collection and the execution of strict measures of detection, prevention and control through increased surveillance and rapid identification of suspected cases.
The Ministry of Health is raising awareness of COVID-19 through the media (television and radio), posters and pamphlets. These channels are essential to relay public educational information such as promotion of good personal hygiene through regular hand washing and social distancing to prevent and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
There is strict execution of prevention and control measures for all confirmed cases. These include the increase of rapid identification of suspected cases; safe isolation and transfer of patients; diagnosis; contact tracing and follow-ups of suspected cases who have been in contact with individuals with a positive diagnosis. The Ministry of Health has also utilised the District Health Information System (DHIS) to capture real time COVID-19 data of all people going through Botswana’s ports of entry to enable easy reporting and analysis of data. The system will also be beneficial in storing data for future studies.