In July, when the country was grappling with the rising number of deaths and new cases of COVID-19 infections that crippled the health system, Maun business community club stood up and pledged to help residents of this tourism village.
The club that has 221 membership contributed money to pay at least ten volunteers who were appointed temporarily as record clerks at testing centers to relief nurses who at the time were overwhelmed by the task of recording patients details, doing the whole testing process and therefore causing the whole procedure to be slow and queues to be long.
“The situation was bad. When we started, people would go as early as 3 in the morning to queue for tests. Some literally spent the night there just so they make it within the 100 daily threshold. We saw people going early to testing centres for three consecutive days, but still didn’t make into the 100 and therefore could not be assisted in time,” explained 35-year-old Atamelang Setswang, one of the volunteers who was based at Matshwane testing centre in Maun.
With the volunteers helping nurses to keep the record, the crowds at the testing centres gradually reduced.
” We recorded and issued numbers and once we reached the maximum allocation for the day, we booked the rest for the following day and they understood. That way there was no unnecessary waiting and crowding at the centre,”Setswanag explained.
As the weeks passed by, the numbers gradually reduced. As of last week an average of 30 people walked into testing centres and were helped within a reasonable waiting period.
Setswang who was running a car-wash business before he joined the volunteers said he was glad he could help when the country was devastated by COVID-19.
“I had to join the fight. Our people were dying in numbers and I knew I was putting my life at risk but it had to be done so that we can win against the scourge. Yes, people were sick, we saw them put in stretchers in a rush, the mood was somber but still we went from being classified as a severely hit white zone, to red and from red to green which is encouraging. We hope one day this will be all over and the country will return to normal.”
Another volunteer, Kealeboga Gabatlwaelwe who was based at a second testing centre which was donated by another private entity, Project Sanitize Maun, says she was happy she became part of the team when the country was down on its knees.
“Because of my experience as a worker in a health centre, I was emotionally able to handle the situation, but it was bad believe me. The centre was crowded, the first week we were only able to help 150 people a day, and then the numbers gradually went down to 100 a day to 50 a day and now just a few people are trickling in for tests,” Gabatlwaelwe added.
The 37-year-old unfortunately got infected with the deadly virus and suspects she got it from the centres as nobody at her house tested positive, “I went into isolation leaving others to help out, but I recovered without suffering any serious symptoms,” she said.
The volunteers started work at the beginning of August and completed the mission last week Friday after the government announced that the country has past the dangerous wave.
Boseja councillor, Itumeleng Kelebetseng who initiated the project noted that, “By channelling and controlling the crowd, we managed to control the disease’s infection and reinfection and it helped the DHMT [District Health Management Team) to work faster because this was very hectic on them and we are glad to have extended a helping hand and are now seeing the impressive results.”
The club’s chairperson Bernard Wellio also expressed satisfaction at how their contribution has helped in saving lives, “We initially agreed to volunteer for one month but when DHMT saw the instant results at the testing centres, they asked for another month and we obliged them.” Wellio quipped.