2 NOVEMBER 2020: Botswana borders, still closed since Parliament renewed a state of emergency for 6 months in September, is now cautiously testing the waters, just a little. Authorities have announced that the country is ready to receive private charter flights into the country’s resort towns starting next month he ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The Botswana Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism announced that private charter flights will be allowed in the country at Maun and Kasane International Airports.
The announcement further said the government is finalising the required legislative framework to facilitate such air travel, which will include protocols for compliance. With international tourists expected to start coming into the country, the ailing tourism industry is expected to revive its plunging operations.
Botswana will be under the state of public emergency for another six months in an attempt to curtail the spread and transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s parliament said.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi approached the national assembly during an extraordinary meeting of parliament to seek a resolution for the country to be placed under a state of emergency.
Addressing the meeting, Masisi said it is regrettable that the southern African country has recently experienced an exponential rise in local transmissions after lifting movement restrictions.
“Indeed, COVID-19 has now become a national health and security threat,” said Masisi, adding that extension of the state of emergency provides a better option for safeguarding the lives of Batswana (citizens of Botswana) while controlling and containing the disease.
The country has so far registered 6642 confirmed cases and 24 deaths.
Botswana initially declared a state of public emergency starting from April 2 following the pronouncement by the World Health Organization on March 11 that the COVID-19 outbreak was a global pandemic.
Uncertainties still haunt the tourism industry and threaten to plunge the sector into an abyss. Statistics paints a gloomy picture of the tourism industry and Germany recently donated EUR 4.8 million (USD 1.17 million) to support the local tourism sector which has been adversely affected by Covid-19.
In addition, the tourism industry is also part of the government’s Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP) expected to ignite several sectors from the Covid-19 impacts.
Botswana which reimposed strict Covid-19 restrictions that include dividing the country into zones and requiring permits for inter zonal travel, ignored its neighbour, South Africa when it eased controls and opened its borders for regional travellers on 1 October 2020. Botswana continues to allow only the most essential travel, especially commercial transporters supplying food and other supermarket requirements.