The World continues to battle, with limited success, a virus that systematically takes the lives of thousands of people each day
around the globe. What started as a modest illness in China in December 2019 has turned into a monster that has put to test the versatility of international health systems, and clearly no country will emerge unscathed.
Most countries are clamouring for lasting solutions to address and eventually tame COVID 19 completely, and we face the prospect of living with the effects of this virus for the foreseeable future.
Six weeks ago, at the counsel of His Majesty King Mswati III, Eswatini joined the rest of the world in introducing a partial lockdown, the main goal being to defer the epidemic peak and to give our health system time to put in place measures to flatten the curve and create capacity to manage a surge in positive COVID-19 cases.
This, to a large extent, has been achieved though there is still more ground to cover. The capacity of the Lubombo Referral hospital has been improved and more beds will be added to enable this facility to handle up to 200 patients at a time. Similarly the TB Hospital in Manzini is getting the required make-over to be able to accommodate more patients in case of a surge of positive cases.
Over 90% of health care workers have been trained on COVID-19 and many more Emaswati across communities have been reached with Information and Educational material on coronavirus. The Ministry of Health has increased the rate of testing and contact tracing, leveraging on the availability of our local testing laboratory.
Thousands of Emaswati have been screened by the Ministry in collaboration with the security forces in roadblocks, health centres, private companies, informal crossings and different locations in order to identify potential positive cases and isolate them.
Government has procured more Personal Protective Equipment for our health workers in the midst of a global shortage. More health workers have been recruited to join the fight against COVID-19 and the recruitment process is still ongoing.
With all these measures in place, considerations have had to be made to determine if our health system is capable of detecting and absorbing a resurgence of cases. The experiences of other countries have taught us that no health system in the world has adequate capacity, hence it remains important to avoid a complete
easing of the partial lockdown measures.
However, the importance of opening up the economy to allow for restricted business activity is crucial.
It has therefore pleased His Majesty’s Government to announce that from Friday 8 May 2020, the country is embarking on a process of gradually easing the partial lockdown on the economy. This is in line with similar measures recently taken by other countries in the region and the world. It is however important to emphasize that
members of the public are expected to fully comply with the COVID-19 regulations throughout this process.
The measures of the eased partial lockdown allow the gradual opening of the economy to the following businesses.
- Manufacturing and Production companies that have international orders to fulfil. They shall operate under strict WHO and Ministry of Health Guidelines.
- Agents and Consultants to operate three times a week
- Furniture Shops shall open three times a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday between 9am and 3pm.
- Dry Cleaners shall also operate under similar conditions as furniture shops.
- Retail Clothing Shops, tailors and dressmakers (that produce face masks and PPE) to operate three times a week– Monday, Wednesday and Saturday between 9am and 3pm.
- Vehicle testing stations shall operate three times a week.
- Deco Shops to operate three times a week.
These businesses will have to demonstrate capability to implement strict COVID 19 regulations and hygiene standards to prevent the spread of the virus. They will have to seek permission to operate from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade where they will prove that they have put in place very strong and stringent systems. adhering to health precautions and ensuring that employees are able to practise social distancing, have adequate hand washing
facilities, sanitizers, wear masks, among others.
Any company failing to meet or comply with these precautionary measures will either be closed or denied permission to operate. It
is important to emphasize that the eased measures do not mean all business will be allowed to operate.
Social, sports and entertainment activities and gatherings remain banned until further notice. Everyone else will be expected to stay at home.
Public transport will be allowed to operate at 70% capacity in a controlled manner and time. There will be strict adherence to the
wearing of masks for all passengers.
Let us all strive to reach the pinnacle of our victory over COVID 19 as one nation. No more lives must be lost in this battle. This is not a one size fits all situation or solution.
Let me also advise our senior citizens and those that suffer from lingering chronic diseases to stay at home in order to mitigate fatalities. In the same context, our younger citizens are also urged to stay at home and not move the virus.
There should be no reason to leave home except for workers in the permitted businesses and for citizens strictly looking for food or medical attention. Schools will remain closed and Government will in due course offer advice on the way forward.
As we move ahead with more strategies to isolate and defeat this virus, Government will adopt more synergised measures.
These techniques include the demarcation and zoning of high risk areas to be categorized according to their level of risk.
This is aimed at introducing a variable application of the partial lockdown from one
specific geographical location to another. For example, red, orange, yellow and green zones will be assigned to locations and
regions, with red representing an epicentre status and green referring to a low risk area.
At the current rate, the Manzini region, and in particular the Manzini peri-urban and surrounding areas are classified as a red zone.
Other cities and towns are categorised as orange zones. This zoning strategy will help government to target specific interventions to affected areas efficiently, such as testing,
fumigation and decontamination of public spaces.
There is nothing more that Their Majesties and all Emaswati yearn for than a healthy nation and a growing economy that is operating at full capacity. The formal and informal economy must be given the impetus to come back to life and feed the countless families spread around our beautiful Kingdom. The importance of having a vibrant economy that creates jobs and supports livelihoods needs no reminder. Each one of us can tell a story of hard work and success, based on the relentless efforts of our working parents and guardians.
The jobs created by this economy are vital in putting the much needed resources in our pockets to better the lives of our loved ones. Matsapha Industrial area means many things to many people, but the common reality is that it has cushioned many of our
friends and relatives to have a job to wake up to. We cannot fathom a situation when this does not happen and we will do all in our power to avoid it. These partial lockdown measures are only put in
place to protect the lives of all Emaswati and to ensure that we emerge stronger than before.
To ensure persistent activity as the economy gradually opens, His Majesty’s Government has sanctioned the following;
a) Categorisation of industries, companies and SMEs, especially small holder famers, eligible to resume operations and trade. Production, manufacturing and construction companies will be given the first priority to open.
b) Encourage non-essential businesses to integrate the use of information technology into their operations to enable them to conduct virtual business.
c) Screening and testing of staff will be mandatory, including adoption of core measures of prevention – that is the provision of hand washing facilities, sanitizers and masks.
d) Business environment should be re organized to accommodate good social distancing.
e) Encourage employers to provide transport for their commuting staff.
f) Strengthening of monitoring processes to ensure full compliance by businesses to the health precautionary measures.
g) Government will provide relief for tax compliant small and medium enterprises to the value of E90 million, as mentioned in a
h) The process of distributing food assistance to the needy is nearing completion and is expected to start on Friday at selected areas and will target over 300 000 Emaswati across all regions of
- Since the harvesting period has started, farmers are encouraged to take precautions as they harvest their produce, primarily to minimise post-harvest losses. The Ministry of Agriculture has in place the following means of assistance that farmers can access; Combine harvest hire services for farmers with more than 10 hectares are available.
- Tractor hire services for transporting produce from the fields and material for constructing maize cribs.
- A network of extension officers who provide advice on proper harvesting and construction of drying and storage facilities.
It is upon all of us to embrace the health advice from His Majesty’s Government and the World Health Organisation to neutralize the Coronavirus pandemic and also adopt all the core measures to prevent more infections.
Regularly wash hands with running water and soap, practice social distancing, apply good respiratory etiquette, stay at home, and should you suspect a symptomatic occurrence self-isolate accordingly.
Inspired by the luminary leadership of His Majesty King Mswati III, Government will continue to give real time updates through the recognised communication channels to put a pulse on the COVID 19 situation.
It is the duty of the Government to provide answers and guidance to citizens and we are committed to living up to this necessary duty.
We are grateful to the consistent guidance of Their Majesties through this difficult period in our history as a Nation. Our gratitude also goes to our health workers who risk their lives every day to help the Nation fight this resilient enemy.
We extend our appreciation to all workers in essential services who
continue to provide services that keep our economy going, and to the security forces that are not only protecting us but are
energetically ensuring the spread of COVID 19 is contained. May I also acknowledge teachers who are proceeding with lessons
through media and technology platforms despite the closure of schools.
I have no doubt that we will emerge victorious if we consistently stick to health and hygiene precautions. This will depend on our attitude of progression and responsibility as individuals and
collectively. We all want to live to see our future grandchildren, to whom we will recount the events of today and the year 2020 with some profound disbelief. It is this common interest that will allow us to claim this victory over COVID 19.