The Swaziland National Association of Teachers has urged the Swazi government to temporarily close all schools, colleges and universities while a strategy is found to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement widely circulated on social media on Thursday (12 March 2020) the trade union said it was worried ‘at the lack of preparedness on the part of the Government to fight against the virus’.
It predicted many deaths unless the government took action.
It said, ‘The SNAT is worried about the fact that no measures have been put to fight back this spectre, particularly in public places such as towns, cities and schools. Precautionary measures have not been adequately put in place and that is a serious cause for concern.’
As of 13 March 2020 no confirmed cases of coronavirus had been reported in Swaziland (eSwatini) but at least two people were being tested. The number of confirmed cases in neighbouring South Africa is growing.
The SNAT statement added, ‘Our weak health systems surely lack the prerequisite capacity to deal with such, should the deadly virus make a landfall within our borders. The government, until now, has not identified even a single fully-capacitated hospital that is ready to address such cases, should they be confirmed.’
It called on the government to declare a national disaster. ‘Certain strategies must be put in place: such as temporary closure of schools, colleges and universities whilst adaptation and mitigation strategies are being considered.’
Separately, on Thursday Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi told the Swaziland Senate that everyone was at ‘high risk’.
She said the government was investigating what to do with big events where a large number of people will be present.
She said, ‘We also have to decide what we are going to do with schools, are we going to close them or not.’ The Swazi cabinet was due to meet on Thursday evening.
Meanwhile, the Times of eSwatini reported on Friday there were calls for government to consider banning foreign nationals from entering the kingdom and to shut down the ports of entry to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus.
These were submissions made by the National Disaster Management Agency stakeholders who included the health, water and sanitation, education and agriculture food security sectors.
Swaziland closes informal border crossings as coronavirus strikes South Africa