Botswana ended a 48-day lockdown at midnight on Wednesday, allowing all businesses and schools to reopen under strict conditions as it tries to restart an economy hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The country has been gradually easing restrictions for the past two weeks with only selected economic sectors such as mines allowed to operate.
As of Thursday, all lockdown restrictions are lifted and only people moving across the designated zones requiring permits to travel,” COVID-19 Task Force Coordinator Dr. Kereng Masupu said in a televised briefing. Dr. Masupu added that the country could reinstate lockdown measures if there is a new spike in COVID-19 cases.
Stringent conditions have been set for businesses and schools wishing to reopen such as checking of body temperatures, regular disinfection and the wearing of masks.
A zoning strategy has been also been set up to help curb the virus’ spread.
As part of the containment strategy, the country has been divided into 9 COVID-19 zones to restrict the movement of people; allow swift responses in the event of an aggressive outbreak.
The COVID-19 zones are Boteti, Chobe, Ghanzi, Greater Francistown, Greater Gaborone, Greater Palapye, Greater Phikwe, Maun and Kgalagadi zones. Thirteen checkpoints have also been designated across the country.
Botswana has a relatively low number of COVID-19 infections with 29 cases recorded. One person has been killed by the virus.
But the economy has been severely impacted by the outbreak with real GDP estimated to contract by 13% in 2020 while the budget deficit is now seen more than doubling.
In response, the government has set aside a 5 billion pula ($413.00 million) fiscal stimulus to cushion the impact of the outbreak while the central bank has cut interest rates and halved the primary Reserve Requirements (PRR) for commercial banks in a bid to improve liquidity in the banking system.