It has been seven weeks since Eswatini had its first positive diagnosis of Covid-19. Over the month the Kingdom have seen this extremely contagious disease making its way through its community, and in the last week in particular the number of positive cases has more than doubled from 40 cases this time last week, to 100 confirmed cases as of this morning, Said the Prime Minister during his statement.
“Initially, the majority of the cases were linked to travel outside the country but, in the past two weeks we have seen an increase in cases not linked to travel. Most of these are from the Manzini Region (66), followed by Hhohho (22), Lubombo (10) and Shiselweni (2).
This rapid increase demonstrates the direct need to maintain social distancing and follow all necessary health precautions and practices, ensuring that all of us play an active role in keeping those vulnerable among us safe from this potentially deadly virus.
— Eswatini Government (@EswatiniGovern1) May 1, 2020
This increase in positive cases, however, can also be attributed in part to the intensive rolling out of screening and testing across the country by the Health Ministry. In the past week, the Ministry of Health has strengthened its capacity and doubled the amount of testing and screening undertaken in our communities. We recognise that this is one of the most important measures that can be undertaken by Government to monitor and track this disease and ensure that we flatten the curve. To date we have tested 2262 samples with 100 positive and 1 880 negative. Twelve have recovered and have been discharged and unfortunately we have lost one. We still have about 200 results pending.
Our spatial monitoring of new cases and surveillance has identified the MR3 route as critical in movement of people resulting in
transmission of the virus to the hub of the country, Manzini. The Manzini Region has been identified as a hotspot with potential to
be the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Eswatini. It is for this reason that Manzini must remain under strict partial lockdown
to ensure that the virus does not spread further. The increased vigilance in Manzini is not meant to frustrate residents of the city
but rather to keep all safe.
May I once again appeal to all citizens to be vigilant in helping curb the spread of this virus. We do understand the sacrifices being
made by all of those who are not able to go to work or have businesses that are suffering as a result of the partial lockdown
regulations. I can assure you that these measures are necessary and are there to save lives. This is a global pandemic that has taken the world by storm. As of today over 3 million around the world have been infected resulting in over 200 000 deaths.
This virus does not recognize borders, race, religion, wealth or social standing. We have seen it spreading indiscriminately from
Prime Ministers and Presidents to the elderly and the poor alike. Many infected people exhibit only mild symptoms and others do not show any symptoms at all. But there are people who develop severe symptoms and require hospitalisation and we need to protect them from contracting Covid-19.
These are challenging times we are facing, but it is in times like these that we ask all of us to make these sacrifices to protect the
elderly and vulnerable among us, by adhering to the partial lockdown regulations so that we have a chance to beat this and
ensure it does not overwhelm our health system. Very few health systems across the world – if any – are prepared for a sudden and exponential increase in people requiring
treatment for Covid-19. As a result, if the virus spreads too quickly, there will not be enough hospital beds, ventilators, personal
protection equipment (PPE) or medicine for everyone who needs them. Government has increased bed capacity at Lubombo Referral Hospital to 100 beds and we are working to provide additional 100 beds at another facility for patients that will require hospitalization. Both facilities are able to provide high and critical care as required.
Our healthcare workers on the frontline fighting the infection are also vulnerable to contracting Covid-19 and we need to do our bit as citizens to protect them by staying at home. Government is indebted to our health care workers for their hard work, dedication
and continued loyalty to their profession during this trying time.
Approximately 90% of all public Health Care workers have been trained on COVID-19 and the remaining will be trained in the
coming week. We are working tirelessly to secure the requisite PPE which is in short supply around the world. As such we are also working with local companies who have already begun manufacturing PPE
For those essential services and businesses permitted to operate during this partial lockdown we appeal that you do so responsibly taking into account the serious threat this virus poses to people if it spreads uncontrollably. We are still in a position now to mitigate that threat and to some extent control the spread if we all play our part. So to those businesses we ask you to please protect Emaswati by continuing to observe strict hygiene standards and for the rest, to work from home to contain this disease.
As we continue to ramp up our screening and testing in collaboration with our security forces, working together with health officials in our roadblocks and communities, and encouraging people to stay at home, we have also stepped up the level of education among our communities. We are continuing to train Rural Health Motivators (Bagcugcuteli), Bucopho and community police, among others, to assist in a door to door educational campaign on Covid-19.
They will be equipped with knowledge and best practice to protect themselves and others from the disease. The key lesson that the country as well as the global community
has learnt in this emergency is the need for the government and the business community to come up with robust and specific strategies for re-engineering business processes and adopting Information, Communication Technology (ICT) platforms that will limit human contact in service delivery.
We have set up a Cabinet sub-committee mandated with the responsibility of developing an economic recovery plan post
COVID 19. The foundation of this plan is both the National Development Plan and the Strategic Roadmap. The Cabinet sub-committee will engage key stakeholders in the development of this plan, including the private sector, international cooperation partners and international financial institutions. While we intensify the fight against COVID 19 it is important for us to ensure that the economy continues to be strong and is able to recover once the
pandemic is behind us.
We remain confident that if we all stand together against this virus that threatens our very lives and do what is required of us all, we can overcome this. The sacrifices we make now will ensure our prosperity into the future. It is crucial to ensure that the glaring
social and economic impact caused by the onset of COVID-19 leads to the development of recovery, rehabilitation and sustainability programmes aimed at addressing priority needs in education, health care, business, as well as agriculture and livelihoods, among others.
I cannot miss the opportunity to consistently emphasize the importance of maintaining good hygiene practices in order to contain this virus.
- Wash hands regularly with running water and soap and using a sanitizer in the absence of water.
- Stop shaking hands and use other non touch methods of greeting.
- Social distancing is a major prevention method. Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from each other at all times.
- Avoid touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes) and cover coughs and sneezes.
- All high touch surfaces in our home and business environment must be disinfected regularly.
- Keep your distance from people showing flu like symptoms (fever, difficulty breathing, cough, high temperature).
- Wear a mask in public spaces. Also wear a mask at home if you experience flu like symptoms.
- If you experience flu like symptoms visit your nearest health centre facility or call the Emergency Medical Services Toll free line 977.
- The public can also call the Emergency toll free line 112 for COVID 19 related emergency inquiries and for reporting
incidences related to the response and interventions of the virus.
Government will continue to encourage strict adherence to health and partial lockdown measures and improve readiness of the health system in Eswatini to be able to consider lifting the partial lockdown at the appropriate time.
Health expert analysis has shown that social distancing is effective in curbing the spread of the virus and if we let up on this measure, we will eventually lose all our gains. It is therefore crucial that all of us become responsible citizens and stay at home. Travelling should strictly be reserved for seeking medical attention or buying
food. I appeal to parents to ensure that children are kept safe at home.
We remain thankful and grateful to Their Majesties for their support and counsel as we go through this difficult and challenging period.