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
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
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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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!!