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Friday, 10 July 2020

Coronavirus set to ‘spread like wild fires’ through Swaziland, PM warns, but lockdown to be eased

The coronavirus crisis in Swaziland (eSwatini) is in danger of spreading like ‘wild fires’ in part of the kingdom, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini warned.

Teams are to be sent from door-to-door in an attempt to find cases, test, treat, isolate and trace contacts, he announced on Friday (10 July 2020).

Despite the spread, schools will continue to reopen, some businesses will be taken out of lockdown and some sports will be able to start again. Churches are set to reopen.

In a statement Dlamini said, ‘It took the Kingdom two months to reach 600 cases and only 20 days to reach 1,200 infections.’ There have now been 17 deaths from coronavirus (COVID-19). He said this had set off ‘alarm bells’ among the people of Swaziland.

He said, ‘We are dealing with an ever evolving enemy which is always ready to strike and we have no other option but to keep up our guard and pace of intervention. This will, inevitably, be a long road to travel and certainly a marathon, not a sprint to the finish line.’

He said there were ‘hotspots’ of infections in the Manzini region and parts of Hhohho.  The Lubombo and Shiselweni regions had clusters with a high potential to turn into ‘wild fires’ if not urgently attended to, he added. 

He announced, ‘The Ministry of Health will soon embark on a “Door to Door Campaign” contained in a six point plan to halt the spread of COVID-19, starting in the Manzini and Hhohho regions and eventually spreading throughout the country. This plan will focus on education, finding cases, testing, treating, isolating and tracing contacts.’

Despite the increase in cases he said the Swazi Government would start a phased reopening of sporting activities. From Monday (13 July 2020) angling, athletics, cricket, cue sports, cycling, darts, equestrian, golf, shooting, tennis and teqball would be allowed if strict health conditions were met. Spectators would not be allowed.

Dlamini said more businesses would also open from Monday and churches would be able to open with reduced numbers in the congregation from 19 July.

Meanwhile, the Industrial Court has still to decide on an application from the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) to force the government to halt the reopening of schools that started on Monday (6 July 2020). SNAT says it is not yet safe for pupils to return.

See also

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland hit record level, 10 pc of tests come back positive
Swaziland Govt. halts food aid to many elderly people as coronavirus crisis grows

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland hit record level, 10 pc of tests come back positive

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Ministry of Health announced a new record of coronavirus cases in a single day just as schools in the kingdom began to reopen and churches were told they could begin operating again.

The number of cases has been steadily rising in recent weeks. On Wednesday (8 July 2020) Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi reported there had been 82 positive cases in the previous 24 hours bringing the total number of cases to 1,138. There have been 14 deaths. 

The number of tests reported in the first eight days of July was 3,306. Of these nearly 10 percent (326) tested positive. The total population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million.

Schools across Swaziland began to reopen on Monday against the advice of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) which said it was unsafe to do so. SNAT went to the Industrial Court on Tuesday to try to get the reopenings halted. The case is continuing.

Already local media have reported cases of suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) among pupils. One teacher reportedly tested positive. 

On Wednesday the Ministry of Home Affairs issued regulations allowing churches to reopen with the maximum number of people present being ‘the equivalent of 30 per cent of the total holding capacity’ of the venue.

The entire Swazi Cabinet of government ministers have been in isolation this week after one of their number tested positive. They were expected to return to work on Thursday after tests they undertook proved negative.

See also

Swaziland Govt. halts food aid to many elderly people as coronavirus crisis grows
Swaziland teachers go to court in bid to stop schools reopening during coronavirus crisis
Entire Swaziland Cabinet in isolation after minister tests positive for coronavirus

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Swaziland Govt. halts food aid to many elderly people as coronavirus crisis grows

Many elderly people in Swaziland (eSwatini) will no longer receive food aid under a government scheme to tackle hunger during the coronavirus crisis.

People aged 60 and over who receive monthly elderly grants (state pensions) but who do not have to care for others such as grandchildren will not be registered for food aid in the second wave of a government scheme to feed the hungry. They had received aid in the first phase of the scheme.

The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) which is coordinating the relief effort confirmed the change this week.

Under the government scheme about 300,000 people of the kingdom’s 1.3 million population were supposed to get grants of E700 cash to be used to buy food.

Now, NDMA Chief Executive Officer Russell Dlamini said the money would not go to elderly people who get the monthly E500 elderly grant from the government.

He said, ‘We have to be very thoughtful with the funds that we have so many people who need the relief. We are eliminating duplication by not registering elderly who are already receiving grants from the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office.’

The Swazi Government’s scheme to feed the hungry has been plagued with problems.

The fund was set up to give money to about 300,000 people who faced hunger and possible starvation when they lost their jobs because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown that started on 27 March. Many businesses were forced to close.

There were so many reports across the kingdom that the registration was flawed that in some places the whole process had to start again.

There were numerous reports that organisations tasked by NDMA had failed to identify people genuinely in need. In turn those organisations blamed NDMA saying the process they were asked to follow was flawed.

In June 2020 Dlamini said many people had dishonestly registered for relief.

Media reported that money was going to civil servants,  landlords and some law enforcement officers who had registered under questionable circumstances.

Dlamini called on the cheats to immediately pay back the money.

The Swazi Government’s feeding scheme was a failure from the start. Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini had announced it would feed more than 300,000 people by 6 May. By a month after that date only 113,273 people had received aid

The feeding plan was originally rejected by members of the House of Assembly who preferred that food, rather than cash, be distributed. They feared money would not be spent on food.

On 7 July 2020 the Ministry of Health reported the 14th death from coronavirus in Swaziland. To date 1,056 have tested positive, according to official figures. By 7 June there had been a total of 333 positive cases and three deaths. 

See also

Only four in ten receive food aid in Swaziland Govt coronavirus scheme, a month after deadline
People face ‘imminent death from hunger’ in Swaziland as coronavirus lockdown hits poorest
Swaziland Govt. pledges to feed 300,000 facing hunger in next two weeks as coronavirus intensifies
Chaos as Swaziland Govt. misses target to start food aid for destitute in coronavirus lockdown
Swaziland Govt. confirms it will not feed the starving in towns and cities during coronavirus lockdown

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Swaziland teachers go to court in bid to stop schools reopening during coronavirus crisis

Teachers in Swaziland (eSwatini) are taking the government to court to try to halt the reopening of schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) says it is not safe to reopen yet. The number of positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) is increasing in the kingdom.

SNAT made an urgent application to the Swazi Industrial Court which was due to be heard on Tuesday (7 July 2020). Schools started to reopen the day before. So far only Form V pupils are back at school.

SNAT wants the government to be ordered to keep schools closed until it provides all teachers with personal protective equipment (PPE). Among other issues it also wants teachers, staff and pupils to be obliged to wear facemasks.

The government is contesting the application but has yet to issue details of its objection.

This week it was announced that the all members of the Swaziland Cabinet were isolating at home after one of their number tested positive for coronavirus. On Monday a sitting of the High Court was abruptly ended when it was reported two judges had tested positive

As of 6 July 2020 there had been 1011 reported positive cases of coronavirus and 13 deaths, according to Ministry of Health figures.

See also

Swaziland schools reopen from coronavirus lockdown amid fears virus not peaked

Monday, 6 July 2020

Swaziland schools reopen from coronavirus lockdown amid fears virus not peaked

Some schools in Swaziland (eSwatini) began to reopen from coronavirus lockdown on Monday (6 July 2020) amid fears that the virus has still to reach its peak. 

The entire Swazi Cabinet is in isolation after Public Works and Transport Minister Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe tested positive for the virus. 

Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced a series of relaxations of the lockdown that has been in place since 27 March. More businesses will be able to open and larger gatherings are allowed. 

The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) in a series of statements over the past few days said schools were not ready to reopen and measures to ensure safety of pupils and staff were not in place. 

Other trade unions have also questioned the wisdom of the government in relaxing restrictions.

As of 5 July there had been 988 people test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), according to official Ministry of Health figures. A week previously that number had been 795. There have been 13 reported deaths from coronavirus. 

SNAT said it had been inspecting schools over two weeks and concluded they were not safe to reopen. There are 933 schools in Swaziland and at present the plan is to open classes for Form V pupils who have examinations to take.

The Sunday Observer newspaper in Swaziland reported a memo from the Ministry of Education and Training that stated that 13 schools in the Shiselweni Region were not ready to reopen. It reported, ‘Minister of Education and Training Lady Howard-Mabuza confirmed that the 13 schools were not ready to operate under the dangerous COVID-19 outbreak because they could put their children in danger.’ 

SNAT leaders also expressed anger that teachers were required to scrub out classrooms ahead of the reopening. Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini said, ‘Those employed on contracts basis have been threatened with non-renewal of contracts, if they do not take the instructions from their supervisors to clean the surfaces of their schools. 

‘Teachers have been forced by the government to go work even though the level of preparedness is so low. The Minister of Education has threated teachers with no work no pay, therefore teachers have no alternative but to risk their lives.’ 

Separately, Sikelela Dlamini said SNAT would seek an urgent industrial court order on Monday (6 July) to halt the reopening of schools. 

Meanwhile, other trade unions in Swaziland criticised the relaxation of the lockdown. The National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) Secretary General Thulani Hlatshwayo said it put public transport operators at risk

Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union President Bheki Mamba said the health service could not cope with the current number of cases. He told the Sunday Observer, ‘You cannot relax and allow gathering of 100 people when new infections are on the rise and there are no medical supplies, personal protective equipment, human resources and COVID -19 supplies including test kits. Now they are changing the case definition and they say we must only test patients showing symptoms and leave out asymptomatic people and contacts of COVID-19 patients.’

See also 

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland continue to rise despite three-month partial lockdown
Swaziland teachers say Govt. plan to reopen schools from coronavirus lockdown unsafe

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Entire Swaziland Cabinet in isolation after minister tests positive for coronavirus

All 18 cabinet ministers in Swaziland (eSwatini) have been ordered into isolation after one of them tested positive for coronavirus.

Public Works and Transport Minister Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe was found to be infected after a routine test of all cabinet ministers on Tuesday (30 June 2020). 

The AFP news agency reported Swazi Government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini said in a statement, ‘Following this development, all cabinet members will isolate with immediate effect and work from home.’

All the other cabinet ministers reportedly tested negative.

The ministers are expected to continue working and hold virtual meetings.

The news comes just as Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced the easing of a partial lockdown that has been in place since 27 March to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Schools are set to reopen on 6 July.

As of 4 July there had been 13 deaths and 956 reported positive cases in Swaziland.

See also

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland continue to rise despite three-month partial lockdown

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Coronavirus cases in Swaziland continue to rise despite three-month partial lockdown

The total number of positive coronavirus cases officially reported in Swaziland (eSwatini) passed 800 on the 30 June 2020. So far there have been 11 reported deaths.

The number of cases rose from 690 to 812 in the final seven days of the month. There is little sign that coronavirus (COVID-19) is under control in the kingdom.

Of the 17 positive cases reported by the Swazi Ministry of Health on 30 June, two were aged nine or under and a further three were aged 10 to 19.

Of the 812 total cases 149 were aged 19 or under. Of the total cases 442 were from the Manzini region, which is also the area with the highest population in Swaziland. So far 408 of the confirmed cases have recovered and 376 are considered ‘active’, the Ministry of Health reported.

Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. At one time all but essential businesses were closed but there has been some easing of this restriction. A ban on gatherings of 20 people or more is still in place and churches and places of worship are restricted. Schools have been closed since March but some are set to reopen on 6 July. The Swaziland National Association of Teachers has called on government to postpone reopening because it does not believe it is yet safe to do so.

See also 

Swaziland teachers say Govt. plan to reopen schools from coronavirus lockdown unsafe
Nearly 15,000 Swaziland workers face unpaid layoffs as alcohol banned in coronavirus lockdown
Corruption throws Swaziland coronavirus scheme to feed destitute into confusion
Swaziland policeman shoots boy, 15, playing football during coronavirus lockdown