Some Members of Parliament have blamed Director of Health Services Dr. Malaki Tshipayagae for having misled them regarding quarantine and transmission of COVID-19. According to the MPs when Dr. Tshipayagae told the Special Parliament Meeting on Thursday this past week that when exposed to the virus it takes the infected between five (5) and 14 days to transmit the virus, it gave them the impression that within the period they got exposed to the COVID-19 health officer deployed to the meeting, it would be less risky to have been in public places.
Three MPs were on Wednesday placed under government supervised mandatory quarantine after they were seen in public places doing some shopping. This publication has learnt that three MPs were not the only ones who flouted the quarantine rules as other MPs were allegedly also doing shopping at other malls.
The three MPs who were spotted at West Gate Mall and placed under supervised quarantine at Avani Hotel are Nata-Gweta MP Polson Majaga, Christian Greeff of Gaborone Bonnington South and Pono Moatlhodi of Tonota. About 17 other MPs are said to have been quarantined at Avani Hotel. Earlier on the day during the meeting MP Greeff asked if the virus can be transmitted the same day the person got infected. Dr. Tshipayagae replied that in most cases to transmit the virus when you get exposed it takes a period of five to 14 days.
“This is the time when you will be shedding the virus. Day one (1) is unusual to transmit the virus. This is why we test you after ten days because the first day many of you will test negative because the virus is so low." After being exposed on social media the three MPs apologised to the public. They also pointed out that they decided to do shopping because they knew they were going for quarantine and their understanding of the director was that they are less of a risk to the public.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, his cabinet, MPs and all those who attended the special meeting including members of the media have been quarantined for 14 days. They have been given the mandatory quarantine with two options; self-isolation and quarantine place availed by government through the ministry. They also were given a Daily Monitoring Tool Form to record their temperature and any observation such as headache, shortness of breath, vomiting, pains in the throat and lungs.
Opposition parties say they gave the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) a blank cheque to do as they wish in adopting six-months State of Emergency and to propose regulations because the party has always wanted to have its way. Opposition parties failed to convince the ruling party against a six-months State of Public Emergency during a two-day Special Parliament Meeting in Gaborone. The opposition placed two amendments before Parliament to be considered against the six months requested by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to fight COVID-19.
The opposition first proposed for 28 days state of emergency which would run along with the lockdown but later after being defeated compromised for a three-month period which also did not see the light of day. Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando said there is nothing that they could do as opposition as the BDP was not prepared to meet them halfway. He said however their decision not to continue with the debates did not mean they were in agreement with their BDP colleagues.
He argued during the debates that what the BDP government was doing was to prepare themselves for the 2024 general election, in view of the way the leadership is adamant on the six months period. Saleshando who is also Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President raised the red flag that some BDP members have been lined up to benefit from COVID-19 procurement. MP for Tonota Pono Moatlhodi expressed fear that there could be possible abuse of power as witnessed during the process of special nomination of councillors. He said the ruling party abused the process to reward undeserving individual BDP members.
Moatlhodi stated that 28 days was enough for government to orbit around COVID-19 and ask for a fresh mandate thereafter. MP for Goodhope-Mabule also Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Eric Molale argued that the proposed period by opposition is not enough to prevent and contain the virus. "This is not about giving the president sweeping powers. If we say 28 days it means our people will plan for only that period. This is why we ask for more time so that planning will also not be compromised.
“The president has indicated that we need a loner planning horizon so as to deal with COVID-19. Opposition should stop telling Batswana conspiracy theories," stated Molale. MP for Nkange Dr. Never Tshabang said since the outbreak everything had been progressing accordingly when the fight was led by health professionals. He said things got out of hand when politicians want to take the lead instead.
"We have to deal with this virus scientifically. First you start with a 28 days lockdown. When you have traced, isolated, then there is a release period which is meant for the populace to interact with the virus. “This is so that we can see if there are any changes or new infections or danger, if there is nothing we continue with release period but if there is danger then impose another lockdown," said Dr. Tshabang adding that health experts who briefed MPs earlier in the week did not link the six months state of emergency with the 28 days lockdown.
Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi told the meeting that the president can have the stipulated 21 days of lockdown within six months. He said this will assist in checks and balances. "We should not be talking about giving powers to the President. We should be talking about strengthening the Public Health Act. This will help us close all the loopholes so that in future we are able to deal with such pandemics. “If the issue is about resources we can have a Contingency Fund where the President would be able to fund and spend funds to fight the pandemic,” he said.