Botswana Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti told reporters Sunday the new coronavirus variant Omicron did not “originate” in Botswana but rather was first “detected” in a group of foreign diplomats who traveled to Botswana from an undisclosed location.
Speaking to journalists at a press conference in Botswana’s national capital Gaborone on November 28, Dikoloti said his country had documented 19 cases of Omicron so far.
“The first four and the majority of the total 19 cases had travel history so that aspect of saying it originates from Botswana is out,” the health minister said.
Botswana health authorities on November 26 said they had detected Omicron “on four foreign nationals who entered Botswana on November 7 on a diplomatic mission,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) recalled on November 28.
“Botswana has refused to disclose the provenance of the four diplomats, saying this would further ‘geo-politicize’ the virus,” AFP noted.
“We are concerned by attempts to stigmatize the variant and label a country where it was first detected as its country of origin,” Dikoloti said of Omicron on November 28.
While Botswana’s health minister declined to specify the origin location of the foreign diplomats who allegedly tested positive for Omicron after landing in Botswana, he did disclose on Sunday that “many” of the envoys “had attended the same event,” according to AFP.
A former member of Botswana’s parliament, Alfred Rabashemi, alleged in a November 28 Facebook post that the first Omicron cases recorded in Botswana on November 22 were “detected in 4 [four] diplomats of Ghanaian origin,” Ghanaweb.com reported on November 29. Rabashemi did not provide evidence to support his claim.
“This variant was first detected in samples collected on 11 November 2021 in Botswana,” the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control noted of Omicron on November 26. Omicron is a new strain of SARS-CoV-2, which is a type of coronavirus that causes the disease known as “Covid-19,” or the Chinese coronavirus.
Botswana health officials announced on November 25 that “four cases of a new COVID-19 variant now known as B.1.1.529 were reported and recorded on Nov. 22 this year [in Botswana],” Xinhua, China’s official state-run press agency, relayed on November 25 citing local reports.
“The four cases were detected among travelers who tested SARS-COV-2 positive on routine pre-travel testing,” Kereng Masupu, the Coordinator of Botswana’s Presidential Coronavirus Task Force, said in a press release.
“The variant tests were carried out as part of the routine genomic surveillance of SARS-COV-2, as prescribed in our COVID-19 response plan,” he detailed.
Masupu said a preliminary report by his coronavirus task force “revealed that all of the four persons had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.”