Eswatini Daily News
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COVID-19 PARTIAL LOCKDOWN UPDATE BY THE PRIME MINISTER

As the World slowly emerges from the clutches of COVID 19 we are presented with a challenge of navigating an unchartered path of cautiously opening up our economy to restart our drive to economic growth and development.

This has to be done in a way that does not expose our people to more infections and threatening the strength and resilience of our health system which has so far proved to be versatile and efficient despite the many knocks it has encountered. The worst is not totally behind us as we still record new positive infections almost on a daily basis.

However it can be observed that the rate of recoveries is truly encouraging and proving the efficiency of our health workers and COVID 19 response interventions. We have learned many lessons over the past two months but most of all, our economy and health system has been put through a rigorous test.

Last week I announced the opening of more businesses to help ease the pressure on our economy, especially on small and medium business, which are the heartbeat of our economy. We are happy to observe that most of the opened businesses are complying with the hygiene and operational conditions which were implemented to prevent an uncontrollable spread of the virus.

His Majesty’s Government, after relevant consultations, has therefore decided to open up more businesses under strict WHO
guidelines, health and hygiene conditions with effect from 15 June 2020. They are as follows.

  1. Driving Schools.
  2. Clothing vendors.
  3. Craft vendors.
  4. Manufacturers, Distributors and wholesalers of alcohol.
  5. Cosmetics and Beauty shops.
  6. Hairdressing salons and barber shops.
  7. General Dealers that do not sell food.
  8. Photographic Studios .
  9. Jewellers.
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Guidelines for the opening of these businesses will be provided by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade.

It is important to emphasize though that the opening of business does not signal the total loosening of the partial lockdown measures. Any business which, on inspection, will be found to be in violation of the permitted conditions will be immediately closed.

We urge the public to report non adherence to the measures by any business to the toll free number 8001002 or 112. Emaswati are still expected to stay at home and only move when necessary, and adhere to all the Partial Lockdown regulations.

Government will continue engaging stakeholders further to determine which more businesses may be opened in the next days and weeks depending on the assessment of the situation on the
ground.

It has further pleased His Majesty’s Government to embark on a phased approach towards the reopening of schools and tertiary institutions. The intention is to reopen effectively on the 1st July 2020 starting with Form 5 and completing classes at tertiary level.

Government will thereafter reopen Grade 7 and Form 3 on the 15th of July 2020.
The closure of schools effected on 17 March 2020 was an effort at national level to contain the rapid spread of the virus. However, evidence shows that the prolonged closure of schools and tertiary
institutions will have significant negative socio-economic effects and it cannot continue endlessly.

For the objectives of the 2020 academic year to be achieved, we need to allow the current Form 5 learners to progress to tertiary level. To do so they need to sit for their examinations and complete their end of school cycle.

In preparation for the reopening of schools and tertiary institutions, personnel will be trained on COVID-19 prevention and control, and on ways of adapting to the ‘new normal’ while ensuring that teaching and learning continues. Government has developed a checklist for assessing school’s readiness. This checklist will be administered by Regional Education Officers.

The process of reopening schools will only succeed with the necessary cooperation and collaboration from parents, transport
sector, school committees, teachers and all stakeholders.

In the meantime, the home schooling strategy implemented by the Ministry of Education and Training through the national radio channels, television and print media will continue. It prioritises the completing classes for the three school levels (Grade 7, Form 3 and Form 5) as an intervention to ensure that learning continues whilst learners are at home.

Government takes this opportunity to once again thank all teachers who are committed to teaching in the home schooling programme for their dedication in ensuring that learning continues during the closure of schools. We would also like to convey our sincere appreciation to the media and partners for the support rendered during this period. May I encourage teachers and students to work hard, as they normally do, to cover the lost time when schools reopen.

The Partial lockdown has rendered a number of Emaswati food insecure and jobless. As a result Government has begun a process of providing food assistance to the needy and exploring diverse ways of cushioning workers that have been laid off.
His Majesty’s Government is pleased to announce that the food assistance programme is going according to plan and is bringing relief to thousands of Emaswati affected by hunger due to the partial lockdown.

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A total of 113,273 people from 29 Tinkhundla have received Cash through the Government food assistance programme. This number will increase daily until the disbursement is completed. It is important to note that the cash transfer and food distribution are going concurrently in different Tinkhundla and will be completed
next week.

Government would like to request the cash and food beneficiaries to be responsible, knowing that government and donors alike have had to forego other planned activities to ensure that the assistance is made available to them. Those who registered but did not receive assistance are advised to contact NDMA for assistance through the
toll free number 112.

The contribution from businesses and international development partners towards the COVID-19 response is greatly appreciated. Government will continue to work with all partners to ensure help
is delivered to Emaswati.

The partial lockdown also resulted in many companies declaring layoffs because they were either no longer operating or operating
partially. This has impacted negatively on the affected workers in terms of loss of earnings and livelihoods.

On the 8th April 2020, Government announced the suspension of the payment of Eswatini National Provident Fund (ENPF)
contributions for the months of March and April 2020 to allow companies to use these contributions to cushion wages and payment of salaries. This turned out to be a short-term solution as the pandemic is persisting.

Today I am pleased to announce that Government has sourced E25 million to create a Relief Fund in order to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on laid off and unpaid workers in the country. This Fund will be managed by Government, employer and employee representatives, ENPF and NDMA.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will in due course announce the distribution
guidelines of the Relief Fund. It is exciting to further announce that in addition to the Relief Fund, the ENPF has also made available an amount of E5 million as seed
capital for the establishment of an Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) for the Kingdom of Eswatini. A comprehensive study and drafting of the enabling legislation for the introduction of the UIF in Eswatini will be activated.

Emaswati would appreciate that currently there is no UIF or its equivalent in this country. This generally means that beyond the prescribed severance benefits that employees are entitled to on retrenchment, there is no form of insurance available to protect their loss of income thereafter.

May I on behalf of His Majesty’s Government extent our deepest appreciation to the ENPF Board and Management for standing with Government to help Emaswati in these trying times.

While we strategically open up our economy, it is important to emphasise that there is still no cure or vaccine for COVID 19. It is
therefore essential that we continue to observe all the Health precautions to protect ourselves and others from getting infected.
They include:

  • Washing hands regularly with running water and soap and using a sanitizer in the absence of water.
  • Using other non touch methods of greeting instead of shaking hands.
  • Observing social distancing and maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre from each other at all times.
  • Wearing a mask in public places and at home when one experiences flu like symptoms.
  • Avoiding touching your face (mouth, nose, eyes).
  • Cleaning all high touch surfaces in our home and business regularly.

Government will continue with the national COVID 19 sensitization exercise which has already covered all Tinkhundla in three regions of the Kingdom, namely Hhohho, Manzini and Shiselweni. The exercise will soon be escalated to cover all communities of the country across all regions. May I take this time to pass my gratitude to Regional Administrators and regional teams for the outstanding contribution they are making in the COVID 19 response.

Government appreciates the wise counsel and support of Their Majesties as we carefully open up the economy to save our way of life and economy. We cannot ignore the role played by health workers and all front line workers who continuously put their lives on the line to save lives. We continue to acknowledge with appreciation the assistance from the Republic of China Taiwan who have also provided specialist doctors whose presence has been extended by a further month.

The worst might not yet be totally behind us, but our collective resolve will see us through. The success of all our COVID 19
intervention efforts rests with all of us. We have a personal responsibility to protect ourselves and others.

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