Botswana to help repatriate citizens stranded abroad

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FILE PHOTO: President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York,

GABORONE (Reuters) - Botswana will help repatriate citizens stranded abroad by coronavirus travel bans, with more than 100 due to arrive on Wednesday from Ethiopia, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said on Saturday.

Botswana ended a 48-day lockdown a week ago, allowing businesses and schools to reopen under strict conditions but its borders are still closed with only returning citizens and essential goods allowed in.

"In order to alleviate the plight of our citizens abroad who have been adversely impacted by the pandemic, mostly students and those affected by the global travel bans, we have decided to assist them with financial assistance to either cope where they are or to return them home," Masisi said in a televised speech.

Masisi said the government has helped 400 return from South Africa and neighbouring countries.

Botswana has recorded just 35 coronavirus cases and one death.

But the economy has been severely hit, with real gross domestic product forecast to contract by 13% in 2020.

(Reporting by Brian Benza; editing by Nick Macfie)