The Government of Eswatini today announced that the national curfew will now be between 11 pm & 4 am while operating hours for retailers are extended to 8pm with effect from tomorrow, 11 March 202. Below is a full presentation done by the Acting Prime Minister.
Honourable Speaker of the House of Assembly
Honourable Members of Parliament The Kingdom of Eswatini, as the rest of world, has been
fighting one of its hardest battles in modern history. No one anticipated that a virus that appeared in December 2019 would sweep the world and leave a trail of destruction with no end in clear sight.
Eswatini recorded its first case a year ago and declared the COVID 19 pandemic as a National Emergency on the 17th of March 2020.
This was followed by the establishment of a National Emergency Task Force led by the Deputy Prime Minister whose over aching role was to harmonise, expedite and coordinate the pandemic response across the regions of the Kingdom.
So much has happened in a year and unfortunately we have lost 658 lives in the country and over 2.5 million worldwide. No country has mastered the art of fighting this virus successfully. We have learnt many lessons over the course of the year, most importantly, that we cannot risk the lives of our citizens in the decisions we take. While the first wave took us by storm, the second wave
stretched our health systems to the limit and took the lives of hundreds of Emaswati within two months.
As a Government we continued to intensify our response to the pandemic even in the midst of the storm and, among others; increased bed capacity in hospitals, increased the number of isolation centres, increased the number of health workers – especially experts in critical care, increased the production and importation of oxygen to meet demand. Government also opened schools for
Grade 7s, Form 3s and Form 5s, providing the necessary tools to prevent the spread of the virus in all schools.
Government also took a methodological approach to effect the partial lockdown in a calculated effort to balance the interest of the economy and continue to save lives. This balance calls for hard decisions to be made consistently as we are dealing with a highly unpredictable yet deadly virus. As a result the contraction in our economy has been remarkably low as compared to the region and the world.
Health experts have warned us of a third wave lurking in the shadows whose variants continue to worry scientists. We have an obligation as Government to protect Emaswati from facing the wrath of these variants without the proper armour. We are currently increasing our isolation centres, testing facilities, PPE material, among others, to be able to safely ease partial lockdown restrictions and open all grades of schools. Based on health advice, Government took a decision last week to extend the current partial lockdown restrictions by a further two weeks. The sole aim is to delay the start
of the third wave and ensure that all our systems have received enough boosters to withstand the pressures of a wave predicted to be deadlier than the previous two.
We are continuously reviewing our decisions to strike the necessary balance between saving lives and livelihoods. May I inform the House, Mr Speaker, that Government has taken the decision to extend curfew hours from 8pm to 11pm. We have been made aware that some Emaswati have had to sleep at the border when crossing into the country from South Africa in the evening because of the curfew hours. Similarly, the opening of shops is being
extended from 6pm to 8pm. This is with effect from 11 March 2021.
Government is currently at the final stages of completing the processes, systems and measures to ensure the safe reopening of schools and places of worship. As a result the extended restrictions announced last week will continue to be in effect with the exception of the extended curfew hours and extended shops opening hours.
We are alive and conscious of the challenges to our
economy and livelihoods that this decision presents. However, it is in the best interest of Government’s primary responsibility of saving lives. We cannot afford to lose more lives. Government appreciates the role played by all three arms
of Government, the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature, in helping unite this country to face this unyielding enemy. We have started to see a decline in the number of new cases and deaths. However, health experts have insisted that we need consistent low infection rates to be able to
ease restrictions without threatening the lives of
Mr Speaker, we cannot afford to relax and be indecisive when the lives of Emaswati are in severe danger. We all look forward to the day when life will be back to normal, a time where we will execute our daily duties without constantly looking behind us in fear. This day is coming sooner than later only if we take bold decisions at this time, cognizant of the fact that some of these decisions will hurt. But yes, Mr Speaker, they have to be taken to save lives. We continue to appeal for calm and understanding as we navigate these rough yet deadly waters.
Together as a Nation we will overcome this pandemic, but we can only do so if we find it in our hearts to be patient, responsible and care for one another. As Government, we remain committed to uplifting the lives of all Emaswati and protecting their lives.