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Botswana springs to life after 48-day virus lockdown is lifted

The landlocked diamond-rich southern African country has recorded 29 COVID-19 cases, including one death.

A man receives hand sanitiser as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus before boarding a taxi in Gaborone on 21 May 2020. Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi ended the 48-day national lockdown on 21 May 2020 but kept some restrictions, including movement between regions. Picture: AFP

GABORONE - Malls in Botswana's capital Gaborone teemed with shoppers and traffic jams returned to the streets, as the country lifted a 48-day lockdown imposed to control the spread of coronavirus.

The landlocked diamond-rich southern African country has recorded 29 COVID-19 cases, including one death.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi ended the national lockdown on Thursday but kept some restrictions, including movement between regions.

Wearing of face masks remains mandatory and non-compliance attracts a fine of 5,000 pula ($412).

"The need to contain the spread of the virus remains," said Kereng Masupu, coordinator of the presidential COVID-19 task force.

"We are happy to be back in business," Ismail Jacob, an Indian trader running a cellphone shop at Gaborone's oldest mall, told AFP.

Before allowing each customer into his shop, he took down their names, identity and mobile numbers, then checked their temperature with an infrared thermometer.

"We have to follow all the health guidelines so that we don't contract this virus," the mask-clad businessman said.

He was not allowed to admit more than 10 people at a time.

"Botswana is lucky because it has registered few positive cases and the government reacted timely to arrest the pandemic," he said.

"We have to be vigilant at all times otherwise we will all perish".

Even the informal sector returned to life, as hawkers sought to earn a little money after the lockdown ended.

"The lockdown was necessary but it was bound to stop," said Seabelo Mogogoma, selling vegetables and face masks in the streets of Mogoditshane, a village on the outskirts of Gaborone.

He had a bucket of water and a tablet of soap to wash his hands and those of his customers.

As part of the containment of the virus, Botswana has been divided into nine zones to restrict movement.

The public will be allowed to move freely within their zones without the need for a permit.

Schools reopen on 2 June, starting with exam classes, according to the secretary-general of Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union, Tobokani Rari.

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