Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has expressed concern that community testing which was to start on Monday this week has been replaced with contact tracing. The COVID-19 Task Team revealed on Sunday during a press conference that the targeted community testing based on a random sample of 20,000 has been postponed and focus shifted to contact tracing. According to the team all resources will be channeled towards contact tracing after it was realised that the number of local transmission is increasing.
UDC has however argued that this is yet another example of failure of planning. "The nation cannot afford this. Community testing and contact tracing are both absolutely critical for informing the COVID- 19 containment strategy and should run concurrently rather than sequentially. The delay in community testing means that locating the geographical footprint of the pandemic will be delayed, at a high cost to the nation in terms of both the spread of the disease and the economic costs," UDC Head of Communications Moeti Mohwasa said.
He stated that the whole world prioritises testing because it is the only way of understanding the trajectory of the pandemic and identifying the hotspots. All efforts should be made for community testing to commence without further unnecessary delay and to scale-up testing beyond the original sample of 20,000, pointed out the UDC spokesperson. He lamented that it is important that the nation should be informed about the reasons for postponing so important a critical part of the response to the pandemic. Testing according to Mohwasa is not for academic/research purposes.
"It is about informing containment measures and saving lives. We advise that priority testing must go to all health workers and social workers, national and local leaders dealing with permits, including the police and the army, those going back to work and teachers. It is also vital that the tests are efficient/accurate and that they return results timely," said Mohwasa adding that the country should thus be on the lookout for new and more efficient testing kits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only led to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but also led to suspension of all sporting codes fundraising activities. The local Olympic body, Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) has had its robust fundraising plan thrown asunder, at least for the short term.
Just before the virus was declared a global pandemic, the BNOC held a high level press conference addressed by Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) minister Tumiso Rakgare, President of Business Botswana (BB) Gobusamang Keebine, Miles Nan of the Chinese Business Chamber, BNOC President and CEO, Colonel Botsang Tshenyego and Tuelo Serufho respectively.
At that conference it was announced that BB and the Chinese Community in Botswana would help BNOC raise funds towards the Tokyo 2020 Games, initially through a golf event penciled for May 2020. At this rate, with the country on lockdown until at the very least, end of April as well as being on a State of Emergency until October, it is highly doubtful that the golf event will fall on the original date.
Still in May, the BNOC was set to receive a part of the proceeds from the 2020 Diacore Marathon, towards the BNOC’s Tokyo 2020 efforts. Minister Rakgare, his Permanent Secretary Kago Ramokate, Diacore CEO, BNOC President and CEO, among others, were expected to participate in a sponsored run during the event.
This would help to increase the amount of money that would flow through to that Organisation. The marathon has now been postponed indefinitely thereby causing anxiety as to how this will affect the BNOC. This publication has it on good authority that BNOC was preparing to launch the uniform for Team Botswana to the Games, with replicas set to go on sale soon thereafter.
It was also to raise funds for Team Botswana athletes. The postponement of the Games to 2021 and the current state of affairs has no doubt affected such plans. Another known initiative to have also been affected is the fundraising gala dinner that was postponed from earlier in the year.
Speaking to this publication, BNOC chief executive Serufho stated that just like many other organisations across the world, they are being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“First and foremost, we must state that as a responsible corporate citizen, the BNOC is fully behind the efforts to fight the COVID-19 scourge across the world, and while inconvenienced by effects thereof, we fully support the measures that have been put in place to fight it,” Serufho said.
He expressed their view that all would not be lost in the end. “It is our firm belief that all the opportunities the BNOC had are not lost forever. Rather the activities will be rescheduled and Botswana athletes will still benefit as was originally intended”.
Serufho said the postponement of Tokyo Olympic Games to 2021 means more money will be required to prepare the team than initially budgeted. This, he said, necessitates the participation of the private sector and the public at large.
Serufho thanked Batswana and companies that have supported them for their good deeds and indeed patience. "We would like to assure them of our best efforts to ensure a historic performance by Team Botswana in Tokyo next year,” he said.
While the Olympic Games will now be held in 2021, the International Olympic Committee has announced the Games will retain the name Tokyo 2020 and the new dates are 23 July to 8th August 2021.
Serufho said Botswana will be making her 11th appearance at the summer edition of the Games and it is largely expected that the country will beat her historic performance at the 2012 London Games.