Acting PM Themba Masuku has announced a cautious reopening of some sectors of the economy in Eswatini including the reopening of schools; reopening of religious gatherings; resumption of community gatherings; reopening of low-contact sports & the resumption of the sale of alcohol.
[WATCH LIVE]: Acting Prime Minister's briefing. https://t.co/sszRpHaOTY— Eswatini Government (@EswatiniGovern1) March 18, 2021
Below is a full statement by the Acting Prime Minister.
Siyanivusela MaSwati lamahle namuhla emini
This week marks exactly a year since a National
Emergency was declared in the Kingdom to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus which at that time had been detected in one LiSwati.
No one had entertained the thought that this virus would continue to swirl at a high and uncontrollable trajectory throughout the world for this long, leaving behind a trail of destruction.
Sitting in the same spot where our late beloved Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, a year ago, declared war on a virus that would later take his own life and lives of 662 other Emaswati is saddening and a reminder that we cannot let our guard down nor surrender to a beast whose
claws are forever sharpening. We have to dig deep within all of us to find the courage and zeal to put a stop to this menace that has changed our lives and livelihoods, leading many to live in fear and anxiety about the future.
We have fought a long tedious fight and this is no time to throw in the towel. We cannot afford to relent but we have an obligation to navigate our way back to a ‘new normal’ through well calculated strategies.
Over the past two months, Government has effected new heightened restrictions at the height of the second wave which had stretched our health systems to the limit. May I, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, pass my gratitude to all Emaswati who have shown resilience and patience
over this period under very trying circumstances.
While the number of deaths and new infections remains consistently low, we have to remain vigilant and unyielding in the battle against this virus as one mishap has the potential to lead to a deadly third wave. It is absolutely critical that we do not haphazardly open up the economy at a time when a number of countries in Europe and Africa have started experiencing the third wave.
Government has once again reviewed these restrictions and came to a decision to cautiously open up some sectors of the economy, according to established risk levels, while leaving some measures in place.
1. Re-opening of schools
We will recall that this week also marks a year since
Government closed schools and training institutions to protect students, teachers and parents from the COVID-19 pandemic. While some classes were eventually opened over the course of the year, the majority of students have remained at home. We have taken lessons from the schools that were re-opened in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic.
The Ministry of Education and Training, working closely with the Ministry of Health, Teacher organisations, UN agencies and other partners in Education, developed Standard Operating Procedures for all schools and educational
As we prepare to open for 2021, the full and effective adherence to these guidelines is of paramount importance in the fight against COVID-19 and in ensuring that schools are a safe space for learning. Government understands fully that re-opening at such a time requires caution, preparedness and provision of equipment necessary for the safety of all students and teachers.
To this end, Government has paid all due funds to schools. These include Free Primary Education and OVC grants for 2020 and the first tranche of 2021 fees.
In addition, hand washing stations have been constructed in schools across the country to ensure hand hygiene health protocols are enforced. We continue to supply soaps, sanitizers, water tanks, scanners and face masks to all schools to replenish the already existing supplies.
The Ministry of Education and Training has conducted inspections in all regions whose results indicate that schools are well prepared to welcome learners for the 2021 academic year. However, not all learners will be allowed to attend class at once. A rotational attendance schedule and blended approach to teaching and learning has been
This means specific levels will be allowed to school for face-to-face instructional time on specific days and given assignments to do while at home. This will allow social distancing measures to be implemented adequately in schools.
Schools will be opened on 29 March 2021 using the
rotational and blended approach whose details will be provided by the Ministry of Education and Training.
We have also set up testing, treating and isolation centres in all regions of the country to ensure easy access by students and teachers who might need those services.
2. Reopening of religious gatherings
Religious gatherings will be allowed under strict observance of COVID-19 health protocols with effect from Friday 19 March 2021. All worshipers are required to observe 1.5 metre social distancing, wear a mask at all times and sanitise. Services should not exceed two and a half hours, as regulated and should be held in well ventilated spaces.
Standard operation procedures will be announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
3. Resumption of community gatherings
His Majesty’s Government recognises the important role played by community gatherings in Nation building initiatives. Therefore community gatherings will be allowed effective 19 March 2021. These will, however, be restricted to 100 people in open settings. Like all other gatherings, these will also take place under strict COVID-19 protocols such as strict wearing of masks, washing of hands with
running water and soap or sanitizing and strict observance of 1.5 metres social distancing.
4. Re-opening of low-contact sports
Government further wishes to announce the reopening of selected sporting activities in the country. This gradual reopening of sports is guided by the nature of the various sporting codes and their socio-economic impact on the lives of Emaswati. As a result, sporting codes classified as low and middle risk, as well as top level organised football will be allowed to resume operations; again under strict COVID-19 protocols.
The sporting codes being allowed to resume operations are: Angling, Athletics, Cricket, Cue Sports, Cycling, Darts, Equestrian, Golf, Shooting, Tennis, Teqball, Chess, Gymnastics, Swimming as well as Premier League and National First Division Football. The reopening of football also covers the operations of all junior & senior football national teams.
It is important to stress that there shall be strictly no
spectators allowed at all training and match venues.
We further wish to emphasise that this reopening caters strictly for organised levels of the mentioned sporting codes, thus social and informal sports activities remain strictly prohibited.
5. Alcohol sale
The sale of alcohol will be allowed with effect from 22 March 2021. Liquor outlets can operate from Monday to Thursday between 9am and 5pm. However, alcohol consumption remains strictly for home consumption.
We encourage imbibers to exercise caution as they indulge on their favourite drinks; by ensuring that they do not, under any circumstances, share their drinks. Drinking in groups is prohibited as these small gatherings can become super- spreaders of the virus. We should continue to exercise caution even as we enjoy our alcoholic beverages. Our
security services will be vigilant in cracking down the illegal sale and consumption of alcohol.
Public transport will be allowed at 100% sitting capacity with no passengers standing with effect from Friday 19 March 2020. We appeal to public transport owners to ensure that strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols is enforced and respected. No passenger should board without a face mask and all passengers should be sanitized before boarding.
The logistics of transport operations will be determined by the Transport Association.
Weddings will be allowed also with effect from 19 March 2020 under strict COVID-19 protocols. A maximum of 100 people are allowed to attend a wedding in a well ventilated venue, observing 1.5 metre social distance. All attendees should wear a mask at all times, sanitize or wash hands with running water and soap.
All other gatherings remain banned. These include
memorial services, night services and vigils, kufukama, parties, among others. Cross border travelling remains restricted to essential travel
only – that is for medical, business and educational
purposes. Government continues to assess the situation on the ground and will strive to open other critical sectors of the economy like the Arts industry when health advice permits.
Last week, the Kingdom started to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in preparation of a massive roll-out of the vaccination exercise. A lot of circulating reports have cast doubt on the efficacy of some vaccines, especially the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Let me take the opportunity to inform the Nation that government has consulted widely with scientists and health experts who have all spoken with one voice that the vaccine is safe for use. The advantages of using the vaccine far outweigh any risks and fears. Like the rest of the vaccines available globally, it will massively reduce the rate of severe illness, hospitalisation and deaths due to COVID-19. It will also relieve the pressure on the health system as experienced in the second wave.
The vaccination exercise is completely voluntary. As
announced by the Ministry of Health, our health workers will be inoculated in the first phase followed by the elderly, those living with co-morbidities and essential workers.
Government continues to source more vaccine candidates such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik V and Mordena to cover all Emaswati above the age of 18.
We believe that once we achieve herd immunity through the vaccination programme, we will eventually go back to a
situation where we can cautiously relax the COVID-19 restrictions, depending on the behaviour of the virus.
Even as the vaccination exercise is being rolled out, we should all continue to constantly wash our hands with running water and soap or alcohol based sanitisers, observe social distancing measures and wear our face masks appropriately at all times.
We are humbled and encouraged by the support, guidance and counsel we consistently receive from the Their Majesties in this battle to put the virus behind us. Their Majesties are a pillar of strength and comfort to all of us in these trying times.
We wish to remind the Nation that the responsibility to implement and ensure full compliance to all the necessary COVID-19 health protocols rests fully with all of us. By so doing we would be protecting lives and our economy from severe effects of the projected third wave.
Government will strengthen surveillance measures to ensure compliance across the board and will not hesitate to shut down any business and activity which fails to fully implement the necessary COVID-19 precautions.