Botswana recorded its first case on March 31, 2020. The government declared a state of emergency on April 2, 2020, and has adopted a list of containment measures, including social distancing and travel bans. The government has lifted some restrictions on May 22 after 7 weeks of lockdown. In June 2020, the country has recorded a spike in cases, resulting in a partial 2-weeks lockdown of the capital city starting from June 30. Many of the restrictions have been relaxed gradually. However, the state of emergency is further extended from March 31, 2021 to September 30, 2021, along with an extension on curfew and localized lockdowns. On the economic front, diamond sales, and tourism and travel activities have fallen sharply, and lockdowns in neighboring countries have disrupted both regional supply and demand. The parliament has approved the mid-term review of NDP 11 including a 14.5 billion stimulus to support the recovery and facilitate structural transformation. Botswana has made an upfront payment to COVAX, the World Health Organization's vaccine arrangement, to acquire 940,800 vaccines under a two-dose regime, enough to cover about 20 percent of the population. In addition, Botswana has paid US$7.1 million to the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) to secure more vaccine doses. Botswana started its vaccination campaign on March 26, 2021 after receiving 30,000 vaccine doses donated by India. It received its first consignment of 33,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility in March 2021, and 200,000 Sinopharm vaccines donated by China. The government has secured nearly 2 million doses, including pending shipments of 1.1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines and 250,000 doses from Moderna, enough to cover the entire 1.6 million adult population.
- Is a curfew in place? Yes
- A curfew for Gaborone has been extended until further notice and bans all movement between 10pm and 4am as of April 12, 2021. The State of Emergency has been extended through September 30, 2021.
- Are there restrictions on intercity or interstate travel? Yes
- Botswana is divided into 9 geographical zones (map available at gov.bw) and permits are needed to travel between zones. Residents may travel within their zone without permits.
- Permits for inter-zone travel may be acquired online at gov.bw and are restricted to essential travel. COVID-19 tests may be required for those transiting zones. Tourism is considered essential travel for economic reasons, and Botswana residents may organize permit applications with a reservation confirmation from their destination lodging.
- Are commercial flights operating?
- Flights are available through South Africa and Ethiopia at this time, subject to change. Contact airlines directly for the latest schedules and fares.
- Is public transportation operating? Yes
- Masks are required at all times on public transportation. Buses and vans operate at full capacity and do not always follow guidelines, so passengers should exercise extra caution when using public transportation.
Fines for Non-Compliance:
- Those in violation of mask or other COVID-related regulations can expect fines between 2000-5000 BWP, though enforcement is rare.
Key Policy Responses as of June 3, 2021
The government established a COVID-19 Relief Fund with a 2 billion Pula (about 1.1 percent of GDP) contribution from the government that will: i) finance a wage subsidy amounting to 50% of salaries of affected businesses (1000-2500 pula per month for a period of 3 months; ii) finance a waiver on training levy for a period of 6 months (150 million pula). The MoF also decided a tax deferral of 75% of any quarterly payment between March and September 2020 to be paid by March 2021.; iii) Build-up of fuel and grain reserves, as well as acquisition of relevant medical equipment and improvement of water supply (475 million Pula); iv) Fund a government loan guarantee scheme of 1 billion Pula (20% financed by commercial banks) for businesses that are tax compliant (including those who are not eligible to pay taxes/). Guarantee covers a period of 24 months with a max of 25 billion pula per borrower. Reduce the VAT refund period (from 60 days to 21 days).
MONETARY AND MACRO-FINANCIAL
At the meeting held on April 30, 2020, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of Botswana decided to reduce the Bank Rate by 50 basis points from 4.75 percent to 4.25 percent to support the domestic economy, and reduced the primary reserve requirement (PRR) from 5 percent to 2.5 percent to inject liquidity. The bank rate was further reduced by 50 basis points on October 8.
Banks and nonbanks have agreed to offer loan restructuring (including for mortgages and vehicles) and payment holidays for affected sectors. Life insurance payment premiums and retirement fund contributions have been rescheduled for at least three months. The Bank of Botswana relaxed rules to meet capital requirements and introduced measures to improve liquidity. Capital adequacy ratio for banks has been reduced from 15 to 12.5 percent, and regulatory forbearance for non-performing loans. Overnight funding costs were reduced, access to repo facilities broadened, collateral constraints for bank borrowing from the BoB extended to include corporate bonds and traded stocks, and electronic payments transaction limits have been raised.
EXCHANGE RATE AND BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
The Bank of Botswana will implement a new annual downward rate of crawl of 2.87 percent with effect from May 1, 2020, representing a change from the current 1.51 percent. This is complementary to the reduction in the Bank Rate and contributes to further easing of real monetary conditions in the economy.
Civic Freedom Tracker
STATE OF EMERGENCY
President Masisi announces a "state of emergency" under Section 17 of the Constitution of Botswana. The state of emergency is effective from midnight on April 2 until further notice. (See primary source or citation here)
Date Introduced: 31 Mar 2020
NO. 30 OF 2020 ON PUBLIC HEALTH (DECLARATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY)
The order declares a "public health emergency," and among other things suspends gatherings of more than 100 people. (See primary source or citation here)
Date Introduced: 20 Mar 2020
Issue(s): Assembly, Emergency
GENERAL NOTICE NO. 128 ON DIRECTIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
Issued under the terms of the Public Health Act, the directions from the Director of Public Health Services restrict movement in and out of the country. The Directions also prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people indefinitely. (See primary source or citation here)
Date Introduced: 20 Mar 2020
Issue(s): Assembly, Movement
EMERGENCY (COVID-19) (AMENDMENT) NO. 2 REGULATIONS
The regulations empower the Chief Justice to suspend any operations of procedures and timelines in the judiciary's rules. The Chief Justice may also issue directions relating to detention, bail, remand and "take any measures" aimed at addressing or preventing the spread of Covid-19. The regulations further suspend the right to strike and lockout. (See primary source or citation here)
Date Introduced: 9 Apr 2020
SI 61 OF 2020, EMERGENCY POWERS (COVID 19) REGULATIONS
The regulations declare a nationwide lockdown and curfew from 8pm to 8am. Violations are punishable by a fine and up to six months' imprisonment. The regulations prohibit gatherings of more than 2 persons, and close all schools and churches. Persons are prohibited from relaying any information to the public about COVID-19 from a source other than the Director of Health Services and the WHO. Persons are also prohibited from publishing any statement with the intention to deceive any other person about COVID-19. Violators face a fine of up to 100,000 Pula ($8,100), imprisonment for up to five years, or both. (See primary source or citation here)
Date Introduced: 2 Apr 2020
Issue(s): Assembly, Disinformation, Expression, Movement