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Saturday, 6 March 2021

Swaziland extends coronavirus lockdown and prepares for third wave to strike

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has extended the partial lockdown of the kingdom as the coronavirus crisis reaches its first anniversary and the kingdom is no closer to getting life-saving vaccines.

The 17,000 people testing positive and the 652 deaths in that time were ‘nothing short of alarming’, Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a statement.

He said Swaziland expected a third wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) to strike.

He added the situation was ‘simply unimaginable and heartbreaking. These past 12 months have not only been emotionally draining but have also left us with scars that will take years to heal as many families lost breadwinners, children and guardians.

‘This is over and above the huge trail of economic destruction caused by the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods; as many EmaSwati were rendered jobless and businesses closed down. Our children have also been out of school for just about a year now.’

Masuku said the Swazi Government had previously declared a National Emergency and introduced several partial lockdown restrictions, increased bed capacity in hospitals and the number of critical health workers.

He said following a second wave of coronavirus in December 2020, more partial lockdown restrictions were introduced.

‘It is gratifying to note that since the new restrictions came into effect, there has been a notable decline in both the number of new infections and fatalities as well as an increase in the number of recoveries.’

He said it was vital to continue to observe all health protocols in order to manage the situation. These include wearing face masks correctly at all times in all public spaces, observing social distancing protocols, washing our hands regularly with running water and soap and avoiding unnecessary travel.

Masuku added, ‘It is also crucial that we ensure that all systems are in place to contain the forthcoming third wave which epidemiologists have warned us might be even more deadlier.’

He said, ‘Government is currently finalising the necessary plans and structures to withstand the expected severe effects of the projected third wave. We have put in place the necessary interventions that will ensure EmaSwati are relatively safe from the virus and that our children can safely return to school and be adequately cared for in case of emergencies.’

Masuku added, ‘When we invoked the last extension two weeks ago, we had also hoped that we would have received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines to start vaccinating our health workers and frontline staff. This process has also been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances but we have intensified our efforts to access the vaccines as soon as practically possible to start the vaccination exercise.

He said the Government had extended the partial lockdown restrictions by a further two weeks.


See also

Swaziland Govt. misses target to deliver first coronavirus vaccines


Swaziland coronavirus recovery in jeopardy as purchase of vaccine halted

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Swaziland Govt. misses target to deliver first coronavirus vaccines

The Swaziland (eSwatni) Government has missed its own deadline for delivering the first coronavirus vaccines into the kingdom.

Swazi Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi had promised they would be in Swaziland by the end of February at the latest.

Now, in a statement, she says 108,000 doses will ‘be delivered anytime soon’.

On Monday (1 March 2021) she said ‘transportation logistics’ had still to be overcome by UNICEF.

She said enough doses were expected to cover 20 percent of the kingdom’s population which is about 1.2 million people. She added the balance of the vaccines were expected in the second quarter of 2021.

The Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccines are coming through the COVAX Facility. She said the African Union had secured a provisional 270 million doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to distribute across the continent, including Swaziland.

 See also

Swaziland coronavirus recovery in jeopardy as purchase of vaccine halted


Slow roll out of coronavirus vaccines in Swaziland, health workers to get priority

Monday, 1 March 2021

UK medical aid team extends stay in Swaziland as coronavirus battle continues

An United Kingdom emergency medical team sent to Swaziland (eSwatini) to help in the coronavirus crisis is to extend its stay by four weeks.

UK-Med announced on Monday (1 March 2021), ‘As oxygen supplies have been a particular concern during the most recent wave, the national WHO [World Health Organisation] office and eSwatini’s Ministry of Health have asked for assistance to review and advise on a national plan for sustainable oxygen supply.’

It added, ‘Although numbers of COVID-19 cases are now low across the country, the extension will enable the team to continue to provide vital support to health services at both the regional and national levels to build the country’s preparedness for any future waves of the virus.’

The UK Emergency Medical Team has been in Swaziland since 30 January where it has been strengthening health services through specialist care, technical support and training for doctors and nurses. The international team of 11 have specialisms that include critical care, infection prevention and control, risk communications and biomedical engineering.

Over the upcoming weeks the team will continue teaching healthcare staff on case management and use of oxygen.

As of 28 February there had been 17,014 recorded cases of coronavirus and 652 deaths recorded by the Swazi Ministry of Health.


See also

Coronavirus badly hits Swaziland economy, could take years to recover: Finance Minister

Friday, 26 February 2021

Coronavirus badly hits Swaziland economy, could take years to recover: Finance Minister

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the Swaziland (eSwatini) economy hard and there is a danger that it will not easily recover over the coming years, Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg warned in his budget speech.

He told the Swazi Parliament on Friday (26 February 2020) that the ‘widespread effects’ of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy had ‘significantly and permanently altered the course’ of the government’s economic plans.

Looking forward, he said, ‘If we do not get the basics right, we will remain in an unsustainable fiscal position and we will see the effects of the pandemic persist over the medium term. This will negatively affect each and every Liswati due to stagnating economic growth, subdued employment creation, lower revenue receipts and higher debt-servicing costs.’

He added, revenues were predicted to decline ‘significantly and steadily over the medium term’. He said, ‘the next three years are going to be even tougher’.

He told Parliament, ‘As we are focusing on growing out of this situation we are in, we need to ensure that government is as effective as possible, doing as much as possible with minimum resources.’

He said, ‘In the domestic economy, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated an economic and fiscal deterioration that was already under way. The lockdowns and weak external demand are expected to have triggered an economic recession in 2020 as economic output is expected to contract by 2.4 percent compared to a growth of 2.2 percent recorded in 2019. The lockdowns effected since mid-March are expected to have impacted domestic demand, particularly manufacturing, tourism, construction and other trade sectors.’


See also

‘Urgent action needed to save lives’ as hunger grips Swaziland

Swaziland coronavirus recovery in jeopardy as purchase of vaccine halted

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Swaziland King was secretly hospitalised with coronavirus

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), has revealed that he was hospitalised for more than 10 days in January after testing positive for coronavirus.

This was not made public at the time.

In December and January the King took part in the annual Incwala ceremony involving hundreds of people from across Swaziland. It is not reported if he caught the virus at this event. 

The King, speaking at the state opening of  the Swazi Parliament on Friday (19 February 2021), said he had taken a drug sent to him by Taiwan and recovered. Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi later revealed to the eSwatini Observer it had been Remdezvir.

The King said he did not reveal his status to his people and said after ‘a couple of days’ he found that he was negative.

‘However, the protocol of the drug requires that you take it for 10 days while the practise for COVID-19 (coronavirus) says, be on medication for two weeks. I therefore, remained in hospital after the 10 days to satisfy the doctors that everything was okay, and we thank God they found that I had fully recovered,” he said.

He has now ordered the government to immediately procure the drug while Swaziland awaits the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.

Remdezvir is one of the drugs US President Donald Trump took when he tested positive in October 2020.

Later, the World Health Organisation said it should not be used in hospitals because there was no evidence it worked.


See also

Swaziland Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini dies after testing positive for coronavirus

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Swaziland King admits kingdom fails to be a First World nation

King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), has admitted his poverty-stricken kingdom will not attain ‘First World’ status by 2022. He had been claiming this was possible for many years.

The King in a speech opening the Swazi Parliament on Friday (19 February 2021) blamed the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for the failure.

He said, ‘We are now in 2021 and there are no clear signs, as yet, that we are going to make much progress without eliminating COVID-19. There are, however, positive signs that it is being brought under control.

‘Since we earmarked the year 2022 as the year to attain first world status, it is clear that we are not going to reach this target. We hope it will not take us too long to get back on track and attain it.’

In fact, Swaziland was never “on track” to achieve First World status.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Swaziland issued a report in 2014 that received no publicity in the kingdom at the time, that said if Swaziland were to achieve First World status it would have to be ‘among high human development countries like Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands and Germany to name a few’.

UNDP went on to give these statistics comparing Swaziland with Norway, the United States and Germany.

Life expectancy: Swaziland (48.9 years); Norway (81.3); United States (78.7); Germany (80.6).

Mean average years of schooling: Swaziland (7.1); Norway (12.6); United States (13.3); Germany (12.2).

Percentage of population with at least secondary school education: Swaziland (48); Norway (95.2); United States (94.5); Germany (96.6).

The UNDP was not alone in this. In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.

It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects lived in poverty.

Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.’

In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa that detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.

Richard Rooney

See also

‘Urgent action needed to save lives’ as hunger grips Swaziland

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

‘Urgent action needed to save lives’ as hunger grips Swaziland

Nearly one in three of the Swaziland (eSwatini) population require ‘urgent humanitarian assistance’ as they experience ‘high levels of acute food insecurity’, according to an analysis just released.

This amounts to about 347,000 people.

Urgent action is required to save lives and livelihoods of populations, according to the IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis covering January to September 2021. It said the problem was made worse by measures to control coronavirus (COVID-19), high commodity prices and erratic rainfall.

It said the loss of jobs due to the pandemic led to a loss and/or reduction of income, which meant people could not afford to buy food.

It added, ‘The unusually high commodity prices further restricted food access and exacerbated the already compromised food availability in the poorest households, further heightening their poverty levels.

In the Manzini urban area which includes Swaziland’s main commercial city about 20 percent of the population 26,336 people) were estimated to be facing high levels of acute food insecurity.

The Manzini urban area mainly consists of people dependent on employment, therefore, the impact of COVID-19 on households in this region has had a great impact on sources of income and livelihoods,’ the report stated.

The closure of a number of industries as a result of lockdown measures to try and curb the spread of the virus resulted in job losses in the region.

The region hosts the majority of industrial area in the country, and loss of employment has had a bigger impact on the people’s livelihoods. High food prices and an increase in other basic commodities have put a strain on households with lost or reduced employment, pushing more into vulnerability to acute food insecurity.

It said the increase in the number of deaths ‘will impact more households, especially with the deaths of breadwinners and spending on health during this period.

It said there was some hope in the future and the number facing high acute food insecurity across Swaziland will likely fall to 209,000 after crops are harvested.


See also

One in three people in Swaziland in urgent need of food, Deputy PM reports

No let up on hunger in Swaziland – World Food Programme