It has been three months since a Partial Lockdown was declared to allow Eswatini to rally and stage a united onslaught against the global outbreak COVID 19.
A lot of tough decisions have had to be taken over the past 90 days as the situation on the ground remains fluid since we are dealing with a highly unpredictable virus which has now affected over eight million people worldwide.
May I take this opportunity to appreciate the work and dedication
of the COVID 19 Task Teams and Regional Teams, led by the Deputy Prime Minister, for putting in the necessary hours and effort in their work, ensuring that the virus does not spiral out of control.
This has been a difficult and challenging time for our health, education and business sector, and the economy. It has required all of us to make many sacrifices for the good of our country, and for that I wish to thank all Emaswati for riding this bumpy wave with agility despite the challenges.
Government is committed to supporting Emaswati during this difficult time. National Programmes have been developed to help those who might have been laid off due to the prolonged partial lockdown, to help SMEs and informal traders who have lost business and income, and also to support the most vulnerable of our society with food assistance.
These programmes are already being implemented across the Kingdom with support from our development partners, the private sector and individual donors. At least 300,000 people have
received food assistance and government is working on increasing this number so that more people access food parcels.
This food assistance is meant for those who are vulnerable and can no longer support themselves and their families. It is not for everyone. On behalf of His Majesty’s government, I would like to sincerely thank all our partners who have ensured that Government is able to access medical supplies and equipment, provide food and cash assistance and lessened the burden on our laid off workers.
While a lot of ground has been covered in the implementation of COVID 19 containment programmes, it remains indisputable that we are dealing with an evolving situation which still presents a lot of uncertainty hence the reason not take our foot off the pedal.
Government took a decision early this month to start easing the economy by opening several businesses under strict conditions to contain the spread of the disease. However over the past two weeks we have seen an unfortunate surge of positive cases in the country which suggests that we have to review some of these easing measures to avoid overwhelming our health system.
It is for this reason that His Majesty’s Government has decided to stop the wholesale and distribution of liquor with effect from 1 July 2020, seeing that the consumption of alcohol is among the leading
causes of the spread of the virus. The sale of alcohol will be stopped for a period not exceeding two months. Government will be monitoring the situation and the public will be updated on further
developments And as announced over the weekend, Government has re-issued a Declaration in accordance to Section 29 of the Disaster Management Act 2006. This is to allow Government to continue with the COVID 19 response and to adequately prepare for the observed rapid surge in the number of confirmed cases.
The National COVID-19 Response Plan is currently being updated and projections are that it will be finalised within the next two weeks. Requirements for the successful implementation of this plan are beyond the capacity of the current government fiscus. I therefore appeal to the friends of Eswatini and our Development partners to continue to assist government meet the financial needs of this plan.
I am happy to report that the Global Fund has approved a grant of about E40 million to help us contain the COVID 19 pandemic.
As we embark on re-opening the economy, Educational Institutions remain a critical sector towards socio-economic development. Schools and Educational Institutions cannot remain closed for ever.
If the academic year is not ended it may suggest bigger challenges later on as schools may not have the capacity to enrol new Grade 1 pupils. The system would be clogged up. One lost academic year can lead to unprecedented socio-economic challenges such as gaps in labour market skill-sets in subsequent years.
Even though there is an apparent need to re-open Educational Institutions, Government is aware that proper systems and strategies should be in place to ensure the safety and well-being of learners and teachers in schools and also compensate for lost
instructional time. To this end, Government has mounted a number of distance learning initiatives to ensure that teaching and learning continues even under the partial lockdown.
In preparedness for the re-opening of Educational Institutions, Government in consultation with stakeholders such as SNAT, EPA, UN Agencies and others, has developed a framework to guide the
safe re-opening of schools and tertiary. The following outcomes have been agreed upon;
- The 6th July 2020 has been identified as a probable realistic date to initiate the re-opening exercise.
- School calendar adjustment and recovery strategy has been developed.
- Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) have been developed with the assistance of the Ministry of Health, to ensure alignment
to the WHO COVID-19 regulations.
- A checklist to assess the state of readiness for Educational Institutions to re-open has been developed.
- A COVID-19 module specific to education has been developed to guide schools and Institutions of Higher Learning on how to deal with the “new normal” in their operations.
- A screening tool for COVID-19 symptoms has also been developed and a strategy on training of school communities on COVID-19 is in place.
- Consultations and trainings with School Committees and teachers are currently on-going to ensure the entire school populace and community is ready to adhere to the new standards as expected.
We appeal to all stakeholders including parents, teachers and the transportation sector to cooperate with Government as we embark on this delicate yet important process of re-opening schools.
Government’s focus is to ensure and secure a safe and seamless transition back to quality teaching and learning. The easing of business operations and the planned re-opening of schools is not in any way a signal that things are back to normal.
We have to adapt to a new normal where we recognise that we will live with this virus for some time until a vaccine is found. If in the interim we have to save lives, there is no better way to achieve
success that to live in a way that protects ourselves and all those around us.
I cannot over-emphasise the importance of taking full responsibility for our individual actions in this COVID 19 fight and following all the health precaution measures as provided by the WHO and the Ministry of Health.
- 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.
- While we are focussed on fighting this virus and getting back our economy on track, it is important that we highlight the need for all
of us to rally behind the protection of our women and children from the scourge of abuse they continue to endure from men. The might
of the law is closing in on all abusers who continue to destroy the lives of our women and children with no regard.
I appeal to all Emaswati to take the individual responsibility of protecting our vulnerable citizens, especially women and children to ensure we rid our society of this despicable scourge of violence against the people we love and cherish.
As we spearhead efforts to contain COVID 19, we have an obligation to never fall back to complacency but to remain steadfast and resolute in our efforts to triumph over this stubborn enemy.
On behalf of His Majesty’s government, I wish to thank all our frontline workers in the COVID-19 Response. The health workers in our health facilities and laboratories, the field staff and volunteers who
are raising awareness and educating Emaswati about the virus, and the security forces controlling movement across the country and keeping us safe, and ensuring that transmission of the corona
virus is brought under control.
We are grateful to the Almighty God who has continued to protect the nation from enduring a full brunt of the virus and, as a praying Nation, we continue to depend on Him for strength and wisdom. I also wish to thank the Clergyman and members of all faiths who have continued to uphold the country in prayer. We have no doubt that this battle will be won for there is nothing impossible with God.
We are continuously humbled by the wise counsel of Their Majesties who constantly push us to save lives and secure the livelihoods of all Emaswati.
As we get into the next stage of our response, we urge all Emaswati to restrain themselves from behaviour that might invite the transmission of this virus or spreading it to others. Large gatherings
and house parties remain banned. Instead, we encourage people to adhere to the advice provided by health experts and follow the WHO protocols.
At a time when the local transmission of the virus has increased in our Kingdom, it is our individual responsibility to protect ourselves and others by continuing to stay at home and only travel when necessary, avoid crowds and report any person or business failing to adhere to the strict health guidelines of containing COVID 19. Success is in our hands.