By Thusang Butale, BFTU Secretary General
Gaborone, 03rd February 2020
Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) has followed reports on the outbreak of the Corona Virus that has been spreading across the globe since January 2020. The Virus which was first reported in China, has recently claimed its first victim outside china in the Philippines. We have further noted communications from the Ministry of Health and Wellness on suspected corona virus patients who have been under quarantine at the Block 8 Clinic in Gaborone.
The 2019-nCov outbreak has been convoyed by unprecedented numbers of social media information some of which has been accurate and some mis-leading. The World Health Organisation has urged governments to share information in a timely manner and we hope Botswana government has been closely monitoring this data accordingly in the interest of Batswana. This request for data comes in light of the circulating myths and rumours surrounding the outbreak and the importance of sharing and making available to the public accurate and timely information from reliable sources.
Last week Botswana quarantined its first suspected Corona Virus Patient who arrived by flight into Gaborone at the Sir Seretse Khama International airport. Since then, there has been a reported total number of 5 suspected patients.
The outbreak calls on all organisations including Civil Society Organisation, Business and Trade Unions to ensure a worker and people centred response. We have workers working at Border posts, Airports, clinics, hospitals and other workplaces who need to be properly sensitised and provided with adequate knowledge and resources to be better prepared to deal with suspected patients and implement the right containment measures while at the same time protecting themselves from infection. The communities in Botswana also need to be engaged so that they can be part of the response.
BFTU regards a healthy nation as an asset and a basis for sustainable development, that access to quality health care is a human right that should be extended to all citizens, that people are the nation’s greatest asset and that no meaningful and sustainable national development can occur when the population does not enjoy the highest levels of health possible.
One way to ensure and guarantee a healthy nation is to ensure health consciousness amongst
the people by making it part of our daily lives. This can be done by ensuring that lessons in health care, hygiene and first aid are compulsory in both primary and secondary school curriculum. Collective l a b o u r agreements must reflect commitments from employers to develop health consciousness amongst workers in their safety and health education program. The Government of Botswana must ratify OSH conventions and provide resources needed in health care facilities.
The Nation’s preparedness to addressing outbreaks should not be reactive but Botswana must be proactive when it comes to health and safety issues.
In conclusion we urge all workers, employers and all Batswana to cooperate and limit human to human transmission and secondary infections by following guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Trade unions, CSO and Businesses must take part in creating awareness by sharing timely accurate information with workers and the general public. Workplace tool box talks and morning/prayer meetings should be used to share information. Clinics must also disseminate information to the general public. We urge councillors to use their usual public announcement measures to communicate to Batswana, in their areas, relevant information to sensitise and raise awareness.
Government must strengthen identification processes, isolate and care for patients early and also address crucial unknowns regarding clinical severity, diagnostic processes and treatment options. Communication from Government remains critical and the nation must be made aware of risks and follow up of contacts. This also requires implementation of health measures for travellers, strict quarantine processes and advanced monitoring of inbound flights and border controls.
We urge all workers to take precautions and protect themselves and their families.