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Chinese coronavirus suspect causes chaos

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Ministry of Health assures the public of safety

A Chinese man was on Tuesday at the centre of scenes of chaos and confusion that broke out in Phakalane as police arrived to investigate why he was living in a warehouse.

As police swooped on the property, the Chinese national, who has since been identified as Lin Xuenyang, bolted out of a goods container parked in the warehouse and took to his heels.

Pandemonium ensued as curious but scared onlookers were torn between watching from a safe distance and arresting Xuenyang as he jumped into a Toyota Fortuner and drove off at high speed with police giving chase.

A woman, who tipped off the police from the warehouse next to where the Chinese man was hiding, has told The Voice that she became suspicious when she realised there was a man living in a container being fed through a window.

“It went on for three days. Another Chinese man would come, stand by the window, hand over food and leave only to do the same again at the next mealtime,” said the informer.

An employee at the warehouse revealed the man had arrived in the country from China on Sunday.

“We have learnt that his brother was advised to quarantine him for 14 days, but now he is out and gone after only three days,” said the concerned woman.

However, on Wednesday evening the Chief Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Doreen Motshegwa assured the public that the Chinese man was caught and put back into self-quarantine.

“We did get the tip off and went to investigate. Fortunately when we got there we found out that this is a man who got into our country legally. He was screened for Corona and it was confirmed that he did not have any signs of the virus. He was however coming from a country that was affected so we advised him to home quarantine for 14 days. We shall keep on checking on him everyday to make sure he does as advised.”

Meanwhile, the imported container caused panic and pandemonium as people complained that it might have imported the virus and demanded it be sanitized.

CONFIRMING: Motshegwa

Dr Ntoni of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, however, assured the public that the virus only survives for 8-12hrs outside a human body or on surfaces before it dies and goods take several days to arrive here from China so the virus would have long died by the time the container arrived.

For their part, Police Spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Dipheko Motube said, “As police we are ready to protect the nation mentally and logistically if the need arises.”

The Coronavirus, which broke out in Wuhan, China in December, has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Whilst the unprecedented disease has brought much of the western world to its knees, Botswana, which has not registered a single case of the virus, has readied itself for any eventuality, banning public gatherings, cancelling conferences, closing borders from countries battling the virus and mobilizing health and government officials for action.

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ATN advocates for tobacco ban

A call to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives from COVID-19: Anti Tobacco Network, Botswana

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The Anti Tobacco Network Botswana (ATN, Botswana) recognizes that tobacco use is an immediate threat to  the control of COVID-19 spread, and calls on Government to stop the sales to tobacco products during the state of public emergency to save lives.

We note  and commend the Government for approving a regulation prohibiting the importation into Botswana of tobacco or tobacco-related products during the state of public emergency.

This action is indeed a testament of the cardinal recognition by the Government and confirmation to the whole nation  that tobacco and tobacco related products such as  e-cigarettes, hubbly bubbly, (Shisha), vapes are non-essential commodities and that tobacco is a non-essential business that cannot be allowed to continue during the state of public emergency. 

ATN Botswana however, urges the Government  as a matter of urgency to issue further regulation to suspend all  sale of tobacco and tobacco related products during the  COVID-19 pandemic period.

Such a ban will reduce easy access to tobacco products and therefore save lives of many people.

People who smoke or use other tobacco products should be assisted to quit in our health facilities.

Our urgent call to ban the sale of tobacco products during this time of public emergency is informed by scientific evidence that smoking damages human lungs and other body organs.

Smoking also destroys the immune system hence weakening a smoker’s responsiveness to infections.

As COVID -19 is primarily a disease affecting the respiratory system, smokers are therefore more vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19 which may result in prolonged hospitalization under life support machines in intensive care units (ICU) or death. Persons with long standing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are also susceptible to severe COVID -19.

There is compelling evidence from previous studies that smokers are twice more likely than non-smokers to contract influenza and have more severe symptoms.

While smokers were also noted to have higher mortality in the previous Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak, emerging data from patients hospitalized with severe  COVID-19 show higher percentages of current and former smokers among patients that have needed ICU support, mechanical ventilation or those that have died.

The findings show that a higher percentage of smokers are among the severe cases.

We argue that tobacco products are not essential commodities and their sales must therefore be banned.

Allowing tobacco sales will expose smokers to COVID-19 who will repeatedly be going to the shops to purchase tobacco products.

In addition, Government should completely ban the sale and use of the hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) which is usually smoked in groups using shared mouth pieces that are a channel for transmission of COVID -19 and other respiratory diseases including tuberculosis.

During such smoking sessions, it is practically impossible to maintain social distance to avoid transmission of COVID -19 as well.

It must be remembered that the sharing of tobacco products by its users pose the danger of  spreading COVID-19 through contaminated saliva.

Several countries in Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Gambia have banned sale of use of shisha.

Recently, 17 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region have banned hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) as a measure to control spread of COVID -19.

South Africa banned the sale of tobacco products during its 21-day lockdown.

Botswana can join these countries, to further solidify its stance that tobacco is not an essential commodity and preventing its use can save lives.

We further call on the Government  to strictly enforce the provisions of section 13 of the Control of Smoking Act which bans the advertisement of tobacco products by the tobacco industry. 

ATN Botswana has noted with concern that recently, there has been an upsurge in advertisement, especially banners posted by irresponsible companies or individuals that boldly advertise and promote tobacco products in the face of COVID-19 and in full disregard of existing law prohibition of advertising and promotion of tobacco products in Botswana.

Such adverts even inviting  people to smoke shops when the Government of Botswana is urging people to keep physical distance, will negatively affect the effort to fight COVID-19 and also defeat other efforts by government to reduce tobacco use which is a known leading risk factor for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

By Professor Bontle Mbongwe, Executive Director, Anti Tobacco Network

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Francistown’s peaceful night

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On the first day of the 28 days of extreme social distancing, the city of Francistown has experienced one of the most peaceful nights in a long time.

Officer Commanding Number 15 District Senior Superintendent Kabo Badirwang told The Voice in an interview that despite a few isolated incidents the night went on with no worries.

The top cop said stopping the sale of alcohol two weeks ago was a stroke of genius that will go a long way in the combat against Covid-19.

Badirwang said they were worried last night as at around 10pm, they could still see long queues at Automated Teller Machines and some quick shops.
“We announced at around 11:30 that people should be getting ready to go home and what we saw was absolute cooperation. By 12 midnight, the streets were quiet. It was an absolute pleasure to see,” Badirwang said.

He said in an isolated incident they came across three ladies who arrived on a late bus at the Francistown bus rank. “They were heading to areas around Somerset, but as you know there was no public transport. They however finally managed to get a lift and were allowed to proceed to their destination.”

Badirwang said even troublesome locations such as Coloured and Bluetown were very quite at night. “People in Francistown have headed the message and this in turn make our task easy,” he added.

He however noted that while the Francistown nights go on peacefully, it is during the day that they experience challenges with people who still feel they have a right to walk wherever they want.
“We do receive reports of people who are not observing the health tips and social distancing. Those will be dealt with. I’m hopeful that in the coming days, people will understand what this is all about,” he said.

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