COVID-19 Crisis: 50 Nurses Test Positive

  • 25 nurses test positive in Greater Gaborone
  • Nurses decry lack of PPEs
  • Gov’t drags feet on risk allowances


At least 50 medical nurses are reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 since April 1 2020, The Botswana Gazette has established.

According to impeccable sources, 25 of these nurses are based in the Greater Gaborone area while the rest are scattered around the country. Some of these nurses were deployed to Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital, which is the main theatre of operations in the war against the marauding pandemic.

But the numbers exclude the more than 100 other frontline workers who are also said to have tested positive for COVID-19. Although the president of the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU), Obonolo Rahube, could not quote numbers, he has confirmed in an interview that a number of nurses have tested positive for COVID-19.

Rahube added that supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for frontline workers was not consistent. “Government had agreed in principle to provide nurses with PPEs but to this point there hasn’t been a constant supply of PPEs,” he said.

“There are also a number of substantive issues that have not been resolved. Government has not provided these nurses with any form of psychosocial support but people need counselling. The Botswana Nurses Union also wants risk allowances for its members but the government is dragging its feet on this issue.”

Meanwhile, the Director of Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, recently told Parliament’s Public Committee on the Public Service and its Management that the issue of risk allowance was work in progress. “The biggest challenge is that relevant authorities, including the recognised unions, are still in negotiations,” Mosalakatane said.

But there are also issues of agreed definitions of terms and phrases that have entered daily diction since the advent of COVID-19. For instance, DPSM raises definition of “frontline workers” as being critical to discussions in a letter dated 10 August 2020 to the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions that is better known its acronym of BOFEPUSU.

“This serves to inform you that our preliminary consultation with our internal stakeholders has revealed that the Task Force report is short of a proper and unambiguous definition of ‘frontline workers’ in the context of the public service of Botswana, as read with other definitions by either the World Health Organisation or the International Labour Organisation,” DPSM wrote to BOFEPUSU.

“For instance, is our definition making a distinction between a health worker who is directly involved with COVID-19 probable cases from other workers? Especially in the health sector, save for those working in border posts on a regular basis, quarantines and Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital.”