Statement to Parliament by Leader of the Opposition (Dumelang Saleshando) presented in term of Standing Order 9.3.2
Mr. Speaker it is my pleasure on behalf of the official opposition to make a statement to this house on a matter of global concern, COVID-19 or the Corona Virus. The world is in a state of siege on account of the Corona Virus. The virus has placed countries on lock down, ushering a period of anxiety, uncertainty, and helplessness for many nations and families. Our prayers and thoughts are with the many families who have lost their loved ones to the virus. As at yesterday, over 8,000 people had lost their lives to the virus.
Though Botswana does not have a confirmed case of infection, we are directly affected by the impact of the virus on the global economy that is grinding towards a halt. The threat of possible COVID-19 cases in Botswana looms high. After all, our neighbours (with the exception of Zimbabwe) are all dealing with confirmed cases of the virus, rendering us surrounded and vulnerable to invasion by Corona.
The virus has had a devastating impact on some of the worlds best health care systems. It is in our interest as a country to be on high alert to minimise possibilities of the virus infecting our populace. Should the virus find its way into our boarders, it should find a nation Ready and United to deny it any opportunity of spreading, as it has done with other countries, leaving a trail of dead bodies and anguish.
As the opposition, we commit ourselves to play our patriotic role in making sure that Batswana are Ready and United to defeat COVID-19. To this end, we call on all Batswana to strictly comply with all the interventions that have been proposed by government to prevent possible infection. Admittedly, some of the interventions amount to a disruption of our long-held traditions as a nation. We however need to comply for our own survival as a nation. The looming crisis does not allow for debate on the efficacy of the proposed interventions. Should the virus be detected in Botswana, necessitating the response to shift from prevention to containment, this will of necessity be accompanied by more interventions that may limit our constitutional freedoms. Let us allow those entrusted with the responsibility of directing the national response the space to execute their mandate as advised by the health experts.
We wish to pay tribute to those of our brothers and sisters, whose call of duty has unexpectantly placed them in the frontline of the war against the virus. We are all alive to the shortage of resources that they require to fully execute their mandate. The men and women at all points of entry and health facilities are our source of pride and hope that the enemy can be kept at bay and will not taste victory within our boarders.
We call on the Government to ensure that its communication to the public is clear and unequivocal at all times. Press releases and announcements should not leave room for doubt on what the intended message is. We cannot afford ambiguity or delayed decision making. To this end, we commend the decision be the President to take charge of the coordination of all activities related to preventative measures and the rapid response to the possible outbreak of the pandemic in our country.
We welcome the decision by government to order the closure of all learning institutions. Though this is a major disruption to the education sector, the inconvenience is dwarfed by the risk of having learners congregate in large numbers at schools daily. We hope that government will also consider additional measures to decongest all public offices and allowing those who are able to work from home to do so, including teachers.
Government must realise that behind the Corona Virus health scare, looms a bigger economic crisis that could disrupt the lives of many. Some commentators have speculated that Corona will kill more businesses than humans. We need to have a robust and comprehensive plan to help businesses, families and individuals to withstand the financial aftershock of the CORONA nightmare. The Corona linked staff layoffs have started in Botswana and workers face a bleak future should government not hastily announce its plan to save jobs. Our expectation is that at the earliest possible opportunity, the President will address the nation on plans to save jobs and ensure that Botswana remains open for business after Corona. We trust that as always; Batswana will join hands in prayer for the Almighty to show his Greatness and Mercy for the human race. May God continue to Bless our Nation as it stands Ready and United to defeat Corona. Dumelang Saleshando Leader of Opposition