The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reinvent itself around the globe indicating that we are still miles away from finding a lasting solution. With over 37 million infections and deaths having now surpassed a million people; we are indeed faced with an exponential health threat that leaves us with little room to make choices that may cost more lives.
Over the past seven months, the Kingdom of Eswatini has also grappled with the scourge which has not only strained the health sector but negatively impacted on the economy and people’s livelihoods. As of this morning, a total of 5 669 people in the Kingdom have been infected with a recorded 113 deaths. May I take this opportunity, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to pass our condolences to the relatives and friends of the deceased.
[WATCH LIVE]: Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini's press briefing. https://t.co/IbedtQAjhL— Eswatini Government (@EswatiniGovern1) October 12, 2020
While the recovery rate has been impressive over the past month and a marked dip in infections has been observed, we cannot afford to be complacent and assume that the worst is behind us. We are still above an average of 10 infections a day, which means all of us have to take full responsibility in order to save lives.
Health experts have warned us that we are in danger of experiencing another upsurge of cases over the festive season if we do not take heed of the COVID-19 health prevention protocols.
We therefore urge all Emaswati to consistently adhere to these non pharmaceutical health measures even at a time when more partial lockdown restrictions are lifted by Government. Relaxed cross-border travel Over the partial lockdown period, all countries were seized with the responsibility of protecting their citizensfrom this rampaging virus. This included limiting or regulating cross border travel. Since the beginning of the month we have seen the implementation of relaxed cross border travel. This has been done with extreme caution taking into account continued adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures.
We have been made aware of frustrations encountered by essential cross border travellers, especially truck drivers. Government is in constant contact with our neighbours to ensure ease of cross border travel for essential travellers. As we relax the restrictions on travelling across borders, we anticipate an influx of people travelling into and out of the Kingdom. This has a further potential of increasing the numbers
of cases if measures to control the pandemic are ignored.
We encourage Emaswati to travel only when necessary as the virus is still prevalent and taking lives both in Eswatini and globally. The easing of travel restrictions does not mean the virus is no longer a threat on people’s lives.
Government appreciates the joint effort from all the Education stakeholders for the smooth schools re-opening and operation of schools since the 6th of July 2020. As Government we are grateful to all government partners for their support towards the hand hygiene materials and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) distributed to schools for teachers and learners of all Secondary schools. This enabled schools to ensure safety precautionary measures while conducting their duty in the schools.
The re-opening of schools on the 6th July, 2020, has given learners in the completing classes an opportunity to prepare for external examinations. School inspections were done by the Regional Education Officers, Schools Inspectors, the Ministry of Health, Human Rights Commission and some Cabinet Ministers as means to collect information that assisted Government decide on a way forward about the class levels that are still closed since the lockdown in March 2020.
Based on the information gathered through the close monitoring of situations in schools and data from the Ministry of Health, it is worth mentioning that Government found it fit and responsible not to open other class levels this year 2020.
Instead,schools will resume early January 2021. Government would like to encourage all learners to follow the lessons taught on radio, TV and Newspapers as this will help them catch-up with the lost instructional time when schools open in January 2021. Parents are requested to give more support to their children so that they do not miss out from lessons taught over the media.
Once again, the work done by development partners, the business community, Non-Governmental Organizations and philanthropists who have ensured a seamless re-opening of schools for the final grades and dedication from teachers both in schools and those teaching through media is highly appreciated.
Phased reopening of Sports and Arts activities In June, Government began the process of relaxing the economy and opening up, in a phased approach, a number of business and sports activities.
As we announced on Thursday, selected arts and sporting activities are reopening today. While these are exciting times for both industries, it is important that we remind the practitioners involved that COVID-19 is still a real threat. Government will not hesitate to close down any uncooperative venue, association and or club and to further bring to the hands of the law all those who break it.
It is important that we remind all artists, art lovers and entertainment venues that only venues which have applied for and received an Entertainment Activity Hosting Compliance Certificate from the Eswatini National Council of Arts and Culture (ENCAC) can host the reopened activities.
Government has noted a mushrooming of unpermitted entertainment activities in various venues over the past few weeks. We wish to strongly caution all who have been involved in such and warn them that law enforcement agencies have been advised to bring to book all who will be found to host any entertainment activity without the due clearance from the ENCAC.
Today also sees the resumption of sporting codes categorised as middle risk namely; Chess, Gymnastics and Swimming. It is crucial that we remind the associations in charge of these sporting codes of the need to follow laid down COVID-19 guidelines as they reopen.
Similarly, the return of top level football is only allowed on the condition that all pronounced COVID-19 protocols will be strictly followed and we will not hesitate to ban teams found to be flouting these procedures. It is also important to reiterate that informal football remains banned. We therefore appeal for the cooperation of all Emaswati, including community leaders, parents and guardians in ensuring that no one plays social and informal football until further notice. We will continue to observe the situation of the pandemic and if and when the situation allows, we will consider allowing more levels to resume.
Sale of alcohol
Government is alive to the concerns of the liquor industry concerning the reopening of the sale of liquor in the Kingdom. We sympathise with the industry for the inconvenience they have been through over the past months. This is a tough decision which Cabinet took based on health advice in order to minimise the spread of the virus and to save more lives. As promised, Government has since reviewed the ban, working in collaboration with health experts, and has taken the decision to lift the ban with effect from 26 October 2020.Conditions of sale The following conditions will apply to liquor businesses:
Manufacturers of alcohol shall operate as per their normal operating hours.
Distributors, wholesalers and retailers shall operate on Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm. There shall be no liquor sale on weekends.
- Liquor shall be sold for home use only. Drinking in public places, at picnics and the hosting of house parties will not be allowed.
- Hotel residents to consume liquor in their rooms.
- Liquor to be only served with meals in restaurants. Also to be served in glasses or tumblers.
- Liquor sharing is prohibited.
- Liquor businesses shall provide screening for all workers and clients when entering premises.
- Liquor businesses shall have the responsibility to enforce the wearing of masks and the observation of social distancing by everyone entering their premises as well as ensure that there is no loitering around their premises.
Re-inforcement of COVID-19 prevention Let us all remember that our collective goal as a nation is to halt
the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the deaths associated with it. Achieving this goal requires consented and consistent efforts. Every person has a role to play towards protecting themselves, their families, their communities and the nation from this deadly, contagious illness. We should be uncompromising in adhering to prevention protocols at all times to prevent a resurgence of high infections as observed worldwide. Apathy cannot be allowed to creep in if we are soon to return to a ‘new normal.’ It is therefore important
to remind the nation to observe the following measures;
- Wear a face mask consistently and correctly. Avoid touching the front of the mask but use the straps to put it on, adjust or remove it.
- Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
- Observe social distancing protocols of one to two metres at all times.
- Avoid closed spaces with poor ventilation and crowded places, including close-contact settings such as close-range conversations.
In conclusion, projections are that we are having very good rains this season and that this will go on for the next coming months. Therefore, we wish to encourage all Emaswati to engage in farming for both subsistence and commercial purposes as we continue to ward off the effects of the pandemic on food security.