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EXTENSION OF COVID-19 PARTIAL LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS

The Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku has announced a two-week extension of the current partial lockdown restrictions in Eswatini with effect from midnight today. “As a Nation, we are a distance away from attaining the sort of comfort that would allow us to ease our restrictions.” Below is the full statement by the Acting Prime Minister which was released today on the 18th February 2021.

“The Kingdom of Eswatini, as with the rest of the world, has struggled to shake off the shackles of the COVID-19 pandemic; which continues to cause sorrow and pain to many of our citizens. 

We continue to surge forward unabated with vigour and determination and refuse to retreat or surrender to a hyena whose hunger for the lives of our people knows no bounds. We do so cautiously with the understanding that some of the postures we have to adopt to shield Emaswati from the ravages of this beast will upset our normal lives and livelihoods.

In my last appearance before you, four weeks ago, we announced enhanced COVID-19 partial lockdown restrictions in an attempt to contain and prevent the rapid spread of the virus and save more lives. Our message to Emaswati on that day and today is consistent and simple, yet important; and that is we all
need to make sustained efforts to defeat the pandemic by adhering to non-pharmaceutical health protocols as advised by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation.

We made the announcement of enhanced regulations against the backdrop of heightened infection and mortality rates marred by slow recovery rates. The decision to introduce the new measures at that time was driven by the national guiding principle of the right to live for all Emaswati, which is fully supported by Their Majesties. 

The second wave of this pandemic has been brutal and has seen a higher demand for health care and health services within a short period of time; thus putting a lot of pressure on our health systems, economic and social sectors and, unfortunately, leading to the loss of many lives on an almost daily basis.

We are thankfully beginning to see a welcome decline in the numbers of infections and fatalities nationally since the new enhanced partial lockdown restrictions came into effect. It is worth mentioning that this could have not happened without the cooperation of Emaswati and all residents of this Kingdom for which we are sincerely thankful. However, we are still not receiving adequate comfort to signal that we are out of the woods.

Our prevention and containment systems still need a breather, especially our frontline workers who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to protect the nation, a majority of whom have not had the luxury of a rest for close to a year. Regrettably, we continue to record an average of 40 new infections a day, at a time when our health experts have warned of a third wave which is sadly projected to be even deadlier. As of this morning, we have already lost 637 lives with a cumulative 16 673 infections. For us, one infection is one too many.

As a Nation, we are a distance away from attaining the sort of comfort that would allow us to ease our partial lockdown restrictions. If anything, we still need to be more vigilant in our push to combat the spread of the virus; by continuing to stick to the COVID-19 protocols of regularly washing hands with running water and soap or alcohol-based sanitiser; observing social distancing, avoiding crowds and wearing masks appropriately at all times.

Let me mention that in our decision making we continue to use science-based evidence and to rely on the advice and projections of our researchers and epidemiologists. We also consider inputs from other relevant and important stakeholders such as faith, economic and social sectors. It is for this reason that His Majesty’s Government, exercising Regulation 52 of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Regulations 2020, has taken the decision to further extend the restrictions by another two weeks, with effect from
midnight today.

This excludes the opening of Parliament tomorrow which has received the necessary legal authority to allow a controlled gathering for the Speech from the Throne under strict adherence to COVID-19 health protocols that include; rapid testing before the event, wearing of facemasks at all times, social distancing and others. May we further remind Emaswati that brewing and selling of marula beer (buganu) is strictly prohibited. The collection of the fruit is only allowed for two purposes; that is;
1. Propagation of the marula plant,
2. Processing of non-alcohol marula products such as jam, oils, body lotion and others.

You will agree with me that decisions whose outcomes affect many sectors of society are not easy to make, but they have to be taken anyway to save lives. We understand one thing, which is the guiding principle of the best interest of the nation – an alive, vibrant and healthy nation which Their Majesties so desire. It would be folly of us to start relaxing at a time when new variants of the virus, believed to be highly transmissible, are sprouting in different parts of the world. We need this time to continue strengthening our COVID-19 surveillance systems to reduce the pressure on our health system and further strengthen our case management systems to reduce mortality in light of the third wave projected to start within the next two or three months. COVID-19 Vaccines Government is forging ahead with plans to secure COVID-19 vaccines to protect all Emaswati from this dreaded virus.

The Ministry of Health is finalising preparations for the roll-out of several approved vaccines, starting with the AstraZeneca vaccine. During the roll out, the Ministry and its partners will also conduct an implementation study on the effectiveness of these vaccines.

This is critical for gathering necessary information to inform further developments and contribute to international dialogue, research and control of this virus as the world grapples with this pandemic. No LiSwati will be compelled to take any of the vaccines.

We are aware of concerns that have been raised about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine which we are due to receive at the end of this month through the COVAX facility. Government has been consulting widely with scientists and producers of the different vaccines and the countries which have used them, including AstraZeneca.

We have received positive results indicating that the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective in preventing severe illness and decreases mortality rates despite the advent of new variants of the virus. The Ministry of Health will continue to provide regular updates on the progress of the vaccination exercise.

Effects of cyclone Eloise Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues in parallel with measures to relief Emaswati who were severely affected by the tropical cyclone Eloise last month. Government, through NDMA and in partnership with UNDP, has completed a Rapid Assessment survey on the effects, damage and loss caused by the tropical cyclone.

Heavy Plant machinery has now been disbursed to all four regions to rehabilitate damaged road infrastructure. In addition, Government has procured building material for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 60 houses that were damaged by the storm across the country. NDMA, working with Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force and development partners, will hasten the construction of houses to meet the urgent needs of those citizens who lost their houses due to the storm. In the meantime, they are being provided with tents for shelter while their houses are under reconstruction.

May I take this opportunity, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to applaud Emaswati who have helped the victims of these floods with all kinds of assistance in their time of need. We further reiterate our warning to all Emaswati to avoid crossing flooded rivers and bridges as heavy rains have continued to be recorded across the country.

Conclusion
As I conclude, may I once again appeal to all Emaswati to jealously protect one another and fully comply with the COVID-19 regulations and prevention protocols to minimize the spread of the virus. Yes, fatigue is a reality but so is the virus. We have come too far to give up or give in now. We have it within us as individuals and as a collective to rid our country of this unapologetic enemy and save lives.

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