GABORONE - A special Botswana parliamentary session called to discuss an extension of a state of emergency ended with all National Assembly members and the country’s president being quarantined. All had contact with an infected health worker.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi had called a special session of parliament to deliberate on extending a state of emergency.
The 65-member National Assembly, where President Masisi’s ruling Botswana Democratic Party is in the majority, voted in favor of an extended period. The state of emergency, meant to fight COVID-19, will now last until October.
But members of the National Assembly, during the sitting, had come into contact with a health worker suspected of carrying the disease. The nurse was on duty in parliament, conducting coronavirus screenings reportedly while awaiting test results on herself. She later tested positive.
Now all National Assembly members will be required to be quarantined for 14 days.
National Assembly Speaker Phandu Skelemani said health workers will determine if members are quarantined at home or moved to designated centers.
“They [health workers] have requested that you complete some form to show where you are going so they can go and see whether you should be quarantined there or be moved to some other suitable place," said Skelemani.
Opposition parliamentarian Never Tshabang condemned the decision to allow the health worker to screen members, while she was awaiting results of a coronavirus test.
“If you tell me the nurse who was exposed to a high risk area, [who was tested and] before results are released, she is deployed to where there is a lot of people, before the results are released. The danger continues. This virus, exploits these small gaps, it exploits lapses in the system,” he said.
Tshabang also criticized the decision to give members of the National Assembly the option to self-quarantine.
“We have complained about this self-isolation and self-quarantine. People who self-quarantine have no discipline. So why are you still recommending self-quarantine? This is a lapse in the system,” he said.
Meanwhile, Botswana’s minister of health, Dr. Lemogang Kwape, told the National Assembly the country’s coronavirus cases now stand at 13.
Seven more cases were reported on Thursday, with one death recorded in the southern African country.