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OPENING OF SCHOOLS DELAYED BY 3 WEEKS

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ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. MOKGWEETSI E.K. MASISI PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA ON GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Ke a le dumedisa.

Bagaetsho, I have found it compelling to once again address the nation, having done so recently regarding the COVID-19 situation which is worsening in our country. The disease burden is weighing heavily on us with infections continuing to increase across the country and precious lives being lost on a daily basis here at home, and throughout our continent. In that regard, and in remembrance of those who have regrettably succumbed to COVID-19 and other causes, I ask that we observe a moment of silence [MOMENT OF SILENCE] … Amen.

I want to highlight that Dr. Edwin Dikoloti, Minister of Health and Wellness recently addressed your representatives in Parliament on pertinent matters, relating to COVID-19 including the procurement of vaccines. I am addressing you tonight because it is necessary for the Nation to be well informed about Government’s efforts to reduce the burden of disease to decongest our health facilities as well update on progress of the procurement of life saving vaccines.

My dear fellow citizens, each one of us, including myself, have either lost a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or all of them. This situation calls for each one of us, including myself, to offer psychosocial support including praying for those infected and affected by COVID-19.

Since my most recent update of the COVID-19 situation on 13th July 2021, we have recorded an exponential increase in positive cases and fatalities, severely straining our fragile health care system. This is due to the Delta variant of COVID-19 which is easily transmissible and apparently more lethal compared to other variants.

COVID-19 infections continue to increase and the current projections show that our nation may not have reached the peak or plateau. Our nation has attained the highest prevalence ever. Almost all zones have turned white which represents a disease burden above 50 persons per 100 000 cases.

Evidence of deaths is conspicuous and worrisome to all of us. As more lives are lost, people become more helpless and distraught. I know that people become impatient with intervention measures employed and desire vaccines the most. I am also aware that the majority are waiting eagerly to get their first shot, and I know that those who have been fully-vaccinated, similarly want their loved ones to get vaccinated as well.

Of course, it saddens me that many have not received a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and they are obviously exasperated. I have seen hashtags, such as #vaccinateBotswana , which show how our people have become desperate. It may look-like Government is not trying hard, but I can assure you that the opposite is true.

Bagaetsho, I want to reiterate that the top priority of

my Reset Agenda, is to carry out a robust vaccination

programme that will cover every eligible Motswana. I

acknowledge though that the implementation of such a

robust vaccination programme has been undermined by

the inequitable distribution of vaccines throughout the

world. However, I want to assure you that the shortage

of vaccines is only temporary and has been caused by

an unexpected high demand across the globe that far

exceeds global manufacturing capacity.

9. Allow me to inform you that, Government has heavily

invested in the procurement of vaccines and to date,

over Three Hundred and Ninety Million Pula has

been spent. Of this total amount, by February 2021,

Government had paid over Hundred Million Pula

through the COVAX and the Vaccine Acquisition Trust

(AVAT) facilities.

10. So far Botswana has received a total of 658, 690

doses of COVID-19 vaccines comprising of the

Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson

vaccines.

11. We are also expecting to receive the remaining balance

of the ordered one million, one hundred and thirty

seven thousand, six hundred and fifty four (1,

137, 654) doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,

one hundred thousand (100 000) doses of the Covaxin

vaccine, eighty one thousand, nine hundred (81 900)

doses of the Pfizer vaccine, five hundred thousand (500

000) doses of the Moderna vaccine, three hundred and

sixty one thousand, two hundred (361 200) doses of the

Sinovac vaccine (made of sixty one thousand, two

hundred (61 200) from COVAX and three hundred

thousand (300 000) doses bought bilaterally) by March

2022.

12. Furthermore, Government also engaged directly with

vaccine manufacturers to increase the chances of

securing vaccines for our people. In this regard, we

have signed agreements with Moderna to secure five

hundred thousand doses (500,000), of their vaccines.

13. We have another agreement with Bharat in India for the

delivery of the COVAXIN vaccine and for these we

have reserved 100,000 doses which will be paid once

the vaccines are released in the coming weeks, between

August and September 2021. We have recently signed

heads of terms with Pfizer for 2 million doses and hope

to conclude the agreement soon.

14. At this juncture, let me recognise the development

partners and other countries with which we continue to

enjoy cordial diplomatic relations. To this end, we have

received thirty thousand (30,000) COVISHIELD from

the Indian Government and two hundred thousand

(200,000 doses) of SINOVAC from the Chinese

Government. The US Government has also donated

eighty one thousand, nine hundred (81,900) doses of

the Pfizer vaccine, the delivery of which is expected in

a few days.

15. Allow me to underscore the fact that the acquisition of

COVID-19 vaccines has not been a walk in the park .

Despite the delayed supply, we have been constantly

engaging with the suppliers for an expedited delivery of

vaccines. Indications are that we will receive a

significant number of vaccines between August and

December 2021.

16. Botswana is simultaneously negotiating for additional

doses from several companies. The negotiations include

vaccines for children under 12 years old. Our plan is to

pre-purchase doses for children even before the clinical

trials are completed.

17. “We have been assured by key vaccine manufacturers

that to address the global health crisis, all of their

current COVID-19 vaccine supply agreements are with

governments, governmental entities such as the

supranational organizations like COVAX who have

capacity to absorb any liabilities that may arise as these

products are still under emergency use licensing. The

vaccine manufacturers hold the conviction that these

government entities are in the best position to fairly and

equitably distribute wholesome vaccines across their

populations. Under these agreements, governments are

responsible for managing allocation and distribution of

the vaccine in their country.

18. Bagaetsho, I wish to emphasise the fact that

Government continues to implement measures to

address the challenges which include, shortage of

hospital beds; shortage of oxygen; shortage of health

personnel in public health facilities.

19. Our strategic partners have been kind enough to come

to our aid at this very critical hour of need. They have

assisted us with Personal Protective Equipment and

Oxygen Concentrators amongst others. These include

local diplomatic missions, private sector and other good

Samaritans. I would like to take this opportunity to

thank them for their generosity.

20. The involvement of these different stakeholders to help

build capacity on management of COVID-19 has really

helped us improve our health personnel’s ability to

handle the situation at hand. All these are welcome

interventions that assist us in strengthening our

capacity and resilience.

21. Bagaetsho, allow me to highlight that no matter how

hard we try, the spread of the pandemic will continue if

we do not take individual responsibility to follow the

health protocols. Importantly, vaccines are not a

cure. Vaccinated people must still comply with COVID-

19 Safety Protocols since they are still vulnerable to

infection. If we do not heed the call to take individual

responsibility, the demand for care will soon outstrip the

available healthcare resources, a situation we want to

avoid at all costs.

22. Let us make sure that we authenticate information

before we either share it with others or believe it. This

is very important because correct information helps

people to make the right decisions at the right time. I

therefore urge you to take responsibility to protect

yourselves, your loved ones and the nation by wearing

your masks appropriately, washing your hands with

soap or sanitizing, maintaining social distancing and

avoiding unnecessary travel. Let your health and life

come first.

23. Bagaetsho, in view of the worsening situation of

COVID-19 in Botswana and its burden on our economy

and health facilities, Government has taken the

following decisions which will come into effect for 3

weeks from midnight Monday 16th August 2021;

• All public gatherings, including kgotla meetings ,

merapelo, weddings, patlo and magadi be

suspended;

• The number of people at religious gatherings and

church services remain at a maximum of fifty (50)

and such gatherings and services be held only twice

a week;

• Funerals be conducted within a period of five (5)

days from date of death and should continue to

follow all established COVID-19 health protocols;

• Inter-zonal movement continues to be restricted to

essential travel only;

• Reopening of schools be delayed for a further three

(3) weeks, except for those students preparing for

their final examinations;

• The ban on sale of alcohol remains

• Curfew will now start earlier at 8 pm and end at 4

am for the next three (3) weeks after which there

will be a review.

24. The different sectors led by the Ministers and

Permanent Secretaries will elaborate more on the above

measures in the coming week.

25. These restrictions will be accompanied by an

acceleration of our vaccination programme throughout

the country. With the recent vaccines that have been

delivered and those anticipated to arrive this month, it

is envisaged that an increase in the proportion of the

vaccinated population; will help the country to prevent

severe infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

26. It is therefore imperative that all those who will be

vaccinated under phase two, should be ready for

vaccination in their localities and therefore selfregistration

for vaccination is encouraged. During this

period as well, Home Based Isolation of positive cases

will be optimized.

27. Finally, I urge you to take responsibility to protect

yourselves, your loved ones and the nation by

continuing to wear your masks appropriately, washing

your hands with soap or sanitizing, maintaining social

distancing and avoiding unnecessary travel. Let your

health and life come first.

Ke a leboga! PULA!!

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