The COVID-19 virus has brought some opportunities for local businesses. One such is a chemical cleaning company, Critical Bond Proprietary Limited based in Tlokweng and Kanye villages respectively. On Saturday the company made a kill as it was engaged by Babereki Ka Lorato Funeral Services in Ramotswa to fumigate their closed mortuary following the discovery that they had accommodated a deceased person who had tested positive for the Coronavirus.
Both the government and the mortuary personnel got to know that the deceased - a 78-year-old woman - died of the virus days after being buried. Speaking to BG Online, owner of Critical Bond, Phil Kekana confirmed that his company was engaged to fumigate the Babereki Ka Lorato mortuary after the discovery that it had accommodated and handled the body of a deceased person who died of coronavirus.
“The mortuary has been closed and we came to bring the business to normalcy by fumigating the premises. What we did is that we started from the gate then the whole yard, inside the mortuary building including cold storages where bodies are kept, offices and all the vehicles,” he said.
He was satisfied that the mortuary is usable now that they have done a “satisfactory job”. However he promised to do the second cleaning on Monday in order to ensure that they have done a througher job and nothing is left behind.
On Monday they will be using chemicals that are not as strong as those they used on Saturday. “This will clearly ensure that the mortuary is ready for use on Tuesday,” he said.
His advice to the Ramotswa community was that as a cleaning service company they have done all that was needed to be done according to the required standards. “Both the premises and mortuary are ready for use as we have killed every germ existing even if it could have been Coronavirus”.
The Gaborone District Commissioner’s office issued over 600 permits on the first day of the state of public emergency.
Speaking to BG Online in an interview District Commissioner Grace Seitshiro said they are trying their best to assist members of the public within the confines of the law. She said they do not use the ‘one-size fits all’ rule but instead assesses every application on a case-by-case basis before issuing permits.
“An example here is when a client comes to tell us that her helper is on dialysis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, some even bring documentary proof from their medical practitioners.
“Or when a parent has a prescription that he or she must go and buy and or collect medication then we are compelled to issue such cases with permits for a certain period bccause if you leave such permits open for a long time people are bound to abuse the good gesture”.
However, she lamented that some Batswana come to them seeking to be given permits to go to the farmlands in order to check on their chickens, goats and other livestock.
“Clearly it shows that many peope still do not want to stay home they still want to go shopping and so on. This kind of behaviour is disturbing,” she said.
In his announcement of the state of emergency and lockdown President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi said that during the period of extreme social distancing, people are allowed to visit the nearest shop.
“But what we now see is that instead people prefer to go to big shopping centres at the other side of the city something which is not right. So this makes it really difficult for us,” said Seitshiro.
However, she was confident that the law enforcement agencies were helping a lot by clearing many things at their roadblocks. “I appeal to all Batswana to be considerate by looking at the bigger picture by first evaluating their reasons for wanting to be given a permit,” she said.
Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) – an umbrella federation of public sector unions has accused government of poor coordination and indecisiveness in its fight against COVID-19.
In a press statement released today by the federation’s Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, BOFEPUSU argues that the fight against COVID-19 requires joint efforts and unity of all stakeholders and Batswana in general.
“We as Trade Unions and workers are highly dedicated to this cause as Republican duty to ensuring a healthy and safe nation,” says Motshegwa.
The Federation has however expressed worries that these efforts are seriously hampered by too much red tape, poor coordination and indecisiveness on the part of Government.
As of Friday some employees have not been given permits to enable them to access their workstations.
Most employees are stuck without transport to work because there is no arrangement made for them after stoppage of public transport, reads part of the statement. Botswana went on a lockdown Thursday midnight after four people tested positive for COVID-19. Of the four, one has already died in Ramotswa.
BOFEPUSU said Friday that there is a crisis in that some employees are still without personal protective equipment (PPE's), something which endangers their lives. It is unfortunate and problematic that Government has failed to give employees PPEs but then threaten them that if they don't work they will be disciplined, Motshegwa said. “This is irresponsibility at its best.”
The Deputy Secretary General said the federation they have put some proposals before government as efforts of protection and safety of employees.
-That the Minister responsible declares COVID-19 as an occupational disease for legal protection of employees in terms of compensation.
- 100 percent medical aid coverage for frontline officers to mitigate medical expenses
-That Government establishes an Insurance Fund for life coverage of frontline employees
-Arrangement for frontline officers to be adequately assisted with protective clothing, accommodation, feeding and all necessary logistical arrangements to enable them to effectively deliver services to the public
-Enhancement of testing capability in various centres established
Motshegwa said most of these issues have not been implemented; yet employees are required to effectively deal with this pandemic facing the country.
“It is a question of how do you send an army to war without weapons and expect victory in those circumstances,” he said. As a Labour movement we must state that employees remain patriotic and highly prepared to serve the nation, reads the statement in part.
“What they are humbly asking from Government is their safety and protection to be guaranteed in order to deliver their tasks as expected. Other countries already have statistics of deaths of frontline officers who died on the line of duty because their safety and protection was compromised, and we don't want that to happen in this country.”
He said in all these matters they have been engaging with the Permanent Secretary (Ministry of Health), Directorate of Public Service Management, Minister of Presidential Affairs & Public Administration and the Minister of Employment, Productivity & Skills Development.
“This country is at a high risk of COVID-19, and therefore we must all be prompt, decisive and serious with implementation of strategy in the fight against this pandemic,” he said.
Some Batswana are still not keeping social distancing when queuing for services.
This is despite the fact that as a way of containing the COVID -19 virus government declared the State of Emergency which is on its first day where citizens must either stay indoors as a way of observing extreme distance or in the event that they go out to get any service then all must keep a social distance of at least one (1) metre apart from each other.
This was not the case when BG Online visited the District Commisssioner‘s office in the village suburb of Gaborone where individuals are currently queuing up in order to apply for different permits that will permit them to either provide essential services or go onto the streets instead of keeping extreme distance.
What perhaps frustrated and made them not to observe the social distance is that there was a drizzle which forced those in long queues to seek shelter along the boundary wall or nearest trees.
Secondly the queue was moving at a snail’s pace. Speaking to BG Online, Gaboronre District Commissioner Grace Seitshiro said her office is doing the best under the circumstances to adhere to the law governing the issuing of permits.
“We look at individual cases and treat them with their own merits in accordance with the statutes issued last night,” said Seitshiro.
The national airline- Air Botswana, is beginning to feel the devastating financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Air Botswana bosses are now thinking of putting some of its employees on forced leave and if push comes to shove employees will receive salary cuts. In a letter written by management to staff dated 18 March, 2020 headlined- Business impact of COVID -19 on the operations of Air Botswana, the management team explains that Air Botswana has reviewed sales trends since February 2020 and compared sales returns with the same period last year.
The letter notes that the variations between February 2019 and February 2020 sales proceeds were insignificant with a drop of P300 000.00, as cancellations were mostly limited to China which did not have a huge impact on Air Botswana as the overall passenger numbers to and from China are small in comparison to Europe and the Middle East.
However, the situation for March is more along global trends, primarily owing to cancellations or postponement of travel by businesses, the Government sector and traders as both Europe and the Middle East felt the impact of the virus. “In the first two weeks of March 2020, the drop-in sales stood at P5.5 million, representing a 32 percent contraction,” reads the letter. The decline in sales volumes in subsequent days, following the announcements made by South Africa, has significantly accelerated and the level of business contraction for the month is expected to be as high as 60 percent, reads the letter.
This has prompted the Air Botswana management to implement a few measures to minimize the impact of COVID-19. Staff leave levels have been reviewed and mandatory regulated leave conditions will be enforced to reduce accumulated leave. Air Botswana staff would be required to take compulsory leave from Monday 23rd March. “This would address social distancing as well as reduce leave liability,” reads the letter. Catering on all routes has been suspended with immediate effect.
Air Botswana will monitor the situation and if ti does not improve staff may be required to take “unpaid leave or even receive lower salaries.”