As Botswana continues to grapple with the B.1.617.2 variant, otherwise known as the Indian variant, experts are worried that the country’s already overstretched health care system may collapse its faces uncertainty in medical oxygen supply.
Following a recent announcement by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoH) confirming the outbreak of the deadly Indian variant in Botswana, The Business Weekly & Review sent a media enquiry to the ministry which sought details as to whether Botswana is ready to deal with the highly contagious B.1.617.2 mutant that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called a “global health risk.”
Responding to this publication’s questions, the Chief Public Relations Officer at the health ministry, Christopher Nyanga, answered: “Every wave or surge of cases brings along pressure to the health care system which is already overstretched to perform its routine mandate and timely response to the pandemic.”
The health care system continues to refine its process based on lessons from previous waves, Nyanga noted, adding that the country has at least increased its testing capacity. “The prioritisation of the elderly in the vaccine rollout was to ensure that we remove pressure from the health system of people requiring advanced care due to disease severity, hence protecting the health system and enabling it to respond,” he said.
Regarding availability of medical oxygen in a worst case scenario, the MoH Chief PRO answered: “At the moment, there is no shortage of oxygen supply for COVID-19 patients in Botswana.” However, he warned that like the rest of the world, Botswana may run out of medical oxygen. “Any surge in cases may prove a challenge because of the limited supply of oxygen in Botswana and across the world,” he said.
In order to pre-empt such a severe state of affairs, the health ministry has appealed to the nation to adhere to preventative measures “to ensure that we do not reach a stage where we will run short of supply”. Nyanga added: “We request Batswana to continue abiding by all COVID-19 protocols such as washing hands with soap or using a sanitizer, wearing of a face mask, avoiding crowded places while social distancing and avoiding non-essential movement.”
Detected in India in February 2021, the WHO labelled the Indian mutant a “global health threat” because it threatens to collapse the world’s health care systems. Neighbouring South Africa was recently mentioned among a list of several other countries which may run out of oxygen as cases surge. Others in African are Nigeria, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, the Indian variant has also hit Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia.