Francistown South’s Member of Parliament, Wynter Mmolotsi has advised Botswana to be wise and strategic in covid-19 vaccine procurement.
Speaking during a visit by a parliamentary committee on tourism dialogue with local tour operators in Maun on Monday last week, Mmolotsi noted that although different vaccines have been manufactured and approved by WHO, Botswana should prioritise vaccines manufactured not only from her trading partners but also from countries with populations that spend money in Botswana for tourism purposes.
“The challenge we are having is that we are using vaccines from everywhere. We have used Sinopharm from China for instance, but each region trusts its vaccine more than others. So we have to look at where the bulk of our tourism comes from, is it coming from the West or somewhere else? That should guide us on where to buy our vaccine. If it is the West let’s buy from the West, if it is China let’s buy from China,” said Mmolotsi.
Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG), and is listed as COVID-19 vaccine by WHO.
Botswana has also used AstraZeneca, a vaccine developed in the SKBioscience lab. The government has purchased around 100 000 of these vaccines.
Meanwhile, the country launched its initial vaccination roll out on March 26th with 30 000 doses of Covishield donated by India.
Mmolotsi has maintained that the government has to take into consideration its tourism travellers from dominant markets to Botswana because they would know we use a vaccine they trust and have the confidence to travel to Botswana for tourism purposes.
“We may say we have won because we managed to vaccinate our populace, but the tourism industry would not benefit much because we might fail to inspire confidence in our tourists who would then hesitate to visit,” Mmolotsi added.
The tourism industry came crashing down last year April following the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has since killed over three million people globally including 761 in Botswana.
The virus outbreak further saw a significant loss of arrivals as countries closed borders and flights were grounded in efforts to control the virus.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), there was an estimated loss of $1 trillion in export revenues as well as the loss of over 100 million industry jobs worldwide.
Following the introduction of vaccines and the re-opening of some borders and airlines, the sector is reportedly beginning to pick up.
However, Mmolotsi who is also the Vice President of (AP) which is a minority opposition party in parliament has insisted that it will be a slow and painful start for Botswana because, besides COVID-19, visitors are skeptical to travel to a country that is constantly in the State of Emergency.
“He (President Mokgweetsi Masisi) does not get the SOE by himself but through Parliament. The current SOE ends in September but that does not mean the president would not ask for an extension, he has already done that three times now, but we are saying we should now listen and look at what is happening especially looking at business prospects,” he warned