Botswana, one of the few countries in Africa without a confirmed case of coronavirus, has moved to secure its borders after neighboring Zimbabwe recorded its first coronavirus-related death on Monday. Soldiers will be watching border crossings, but authorities say Zimbabweans who use unauthorized entry points present a real challenge.
Botswana’s government announced Tuesday it was closing all border crossing points with immediate effect.
Botswana’s Vice President Slumber Tsogwane addressed the nation on state television.
"The movement of people visiting neighboring countries including Lesotho and Swaziland is restricted. His excellency the President recently undertook an emergency official trip to Namibia to seize the presence of other regional heads of state to discuss critical COVID-19 measures taken in respect of countries sharing borders with Botswana," said Tsogwane.
The closures will remain in place until further notice. Citizens will be allowed to return home, but must submit to a 14-day quarantine.
The move came a day after Zimbabwe registered the region’s first coronavirus-related death.
Soldiers are being deployed to watch border crossings. However, authorities say it will be difficult to prevent all illegal entries. Many Zimbabweans coming into Botswana use unauthorized entry points.
Botswana Defense Force official Khumo Morwagabuse said Monday that the situation could undermine efforts to keep out the coronavirus.
In 2018, Botswana deported nearly 29,000 illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe.
Gaborone resident Khumo Tlhakane said Botswana should now move to curb illegal immigration.
"Now our greatest threat is the border jumpers. They do not go through the same screening process like everyone who comes into Botswana. Now the government should step up and increase their measures, the soldiers should do more patrols," said Tlhakane.
Botswana also has to keep an eagle eye on South Africa, which had recorded more than 500 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday.
However, the number of border jumpers from South Africa and Botswana’s other neighbors is usually small.