Botswana’s Health Ministry says it is now in the process of tracing the people who were in contact with four foreign nationals who tested positive with the new strain of COVID-19.
It says the tourists entered the country earlier this month – and were tested for the virus on their departure a few days later. Genomic sequencing confirmed that their samples were of the new variant (B.1.1.529).
Hong Kong and South Africa have also confirmed the circulation of this new lineage.
In a statement, Botswana’s Ministry of Health says so far all the contacts traced have shown no symptoms of COVID-19 and have tested negative. It says they will continue with the intimate and complex analysis of COVID-19 keeping up the surveillance and early detection needed when dealing with a pandemic.
It’s reiterated the point by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that there isn’t enough information on the new variant so no major conclusions can be made against it as yet.
B.1.1.529 is made of many mutations and is thought, for now, to be highly transmissible.
Africa CDC and WHO to meet with SA, Botswana over new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529:
‘Hasty travel restrictions’

WHO has cautioned countries against hastily imposing travel restrictions linked to the new B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19. It says governments should take a risk-based and scientific approach.

The United Kingdom and several countries in Europe have already issued out travel bans to Southern African countries including Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

WHO is currently in meetings with health authorities and researchers from both countries on the new developments.

Christian Lindmeier explains, “WHO recommends that countries continue to apply a risk-based and scientific approach when implementing travel measures in accordance with the temporary recommendations of the ninth emergency committee. And it is important to note that every travel measure should be always weighed and that countries can do a lot already in terms of surveillance and sequencing and work together with the affected countries, or globally, to work scientifically to fight this variant and to understand more about it, so that we know how to go about. So at this point, implementing travel measures is being cautioned against, and taking a risk-based scientific approach. The more COVID-19 circulates, the more opportunities this virus has to change, mutate and develop different forms.”