Botswana detects 19 cases of the Omicron Covid variant

Botswana, the only African country outside South Africa to have reported cases of Omicron, said on Sunday it had detected 19 infections of the new variant of Covid, including the first four reported last week.

“To date, we have registered a total of 19 variant cases,” Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti said at a press conference in the capital Gaborone.

The southern African country said on Friday that the highly mutated variant was detected in four foreign nationals who entered Botswana on November 7 on a diplomatic mission.

Read more: First Omicron Image Shows Far More Mutations Than Delta

The announcement came a day after South African scientists identified the variant, triggering a wave of travel bans on flights from the region.

Most of Botswana‘s 19 cases were from overseas, Dikoloti said, and many had witnessed the same event.

Botswana declined to reveal the provenance of the four diplomats, saying it would “geopolitize” the virus further.

“We are concerned that there appear to have been attempts to stigmatize the country where he was detected,” Dikoloti said, referring to some media reports which described Omicron as the “Botswana variant”.

“The detection in this case was treated as an origin,” he said.

The country of 2.4 million people has reported around 194,900 coronavirus cases and 2,416 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Just over 20 percent of its population have been fully immunized.

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