Botswana won't close SA border because of coronavirus, but reportedly suspends official travel

The Ramatlabama border post between SA and Botswana.
The Ramatlabama border post between SA and Botswana.
Image: Google Maps/Screenshot

Botswana health and wellness minister Lemogang Kwape says the country won't close its borders after 13 cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in SA.

Kwape told Botswana youth radio station Yarona FM that the country was monitoring its borders, but had no immediate plan to block entrance to and from SA.

“Not at the moment. This is a fluid situation. It is assessed on a day-to-day basis. Botswana is a net importer of products. You can imagine if we close our borders. We are not self-sufficient in quite a few things.

“So, while we are mindful that we do not want the virus to come into our country, we must also be alive to the fact that we depend on other countries to do business.”

He called on Botswana residents to stay calm. 

“When the virus is [on] our doorstep, I think we should be worried, but the alarm should not be that we panic ... we are prepared to deal with the virus should it get into our borders. In terms of preparedness, we are working around the clock to monitor all of our points of entry.”

Officials at the department's national coronavirus call centre confirmed to TimesLIVE that no decision to close the country's borders had been made and that it remained vigilant.

The minister's comments come hours after Botswana news website Mmegi reported that minister of local government and rural development Eric Molale told delegates at the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (Bala) conference that official travel outside the country had been suspended.

Meanwhile, Mozambique's National Resistance (Renamo) movement this week called for the closure of the border with SA.

“In the face of this very threatening scenario, Mozambicans and Renamo are concerned about the fragility of the borders without control to prevent the entry of this virus [to] our country,” the party's spokesperson, José Manteigas, told news website Verdade.

The publication also reported that the country's health minister had dismissed the calls.

“Closing borders is an extreme measure that should only be used in view of a risk that could possibly create a calamity situation. It is not the case. Even now, China has not closed its borders. It has quarantined some cities, but closing borders has an economic and social impact,” he reportedly said on the sidelines of a class he presented at a local high school on coronavirus prevention measures.

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