Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Swaziland Govt. tries for second time to ease coronavirus lockdown after previous attempt failed

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government is once again to ease the coronavirus lockdown in the kingdom. When it tried to do this three weeks ago it reversed its decision within days because it encouraged people to lack vigilance in preventing the transmission of the virus.

Swaziland which is ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III has been in lockdown for six weeks since 27 March 2020. Businesses have been restricted, travel severely limited and gatherings of more than 20 people banned.

At least 300,000 face severe hunger as people cannot afford to buy food because they no longer have paid jobs.

On Wednesday (6 May 2020) Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced new rules that would ease the lockdown but not end it completely.

His announcement came on the same day Lizzie Nkosi, the Minister of Health, reported the second death from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Swaziland. There have also been 123 confirmed cases of the virus.

Dlamini announced, ‘the gradual opening of the economy’. He said, ‘The formal and informal economy must be given the impetus to come back to life and feed the countless families spread around our beautiful Kingdom. The importance of having a vibrant economy that creates jobs and supports livelihoods needs no reminder.’

He detailed the changes as follows:

1. Manufacturing and Production companies that have international orders to fulfil. They shall operate under strict WHO and Ministry of Health Guidelines. 

2. Agents and Consultants to operate three times a week 

3. Furniture Shops shall open three times a week; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday between 9am and 3pm. 

4. Dry Cleaners shall also operate under similar conditions as furniture shops. 

5. Retail Clothing Shops, tailors and dressmakers (that produce face masks and PPE) to operate three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Saturday between 9am and 3pm. 

6. Vehicle testing stations shall operate three times a week. 

7. Deco Shops to operate three times a week. 

The Prime Minister said, ‘These businesses will have to demonstrate capability to implement strict COVID-19 regulations and hygiene standards to prevent the spread of the virus. They will have to seek permission to operate from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade where they will prove that they have put in place very strong and stringent systems adhering to health precautions and ensuring that employees are able to practise social distancing, have adequate hand washing facilities, sanitizers, wear masks, among others.’

He added, ‘Any company failing to meet or comply with these precautionary measures will either be closed or denied permission to operate. It is important to emphasize that the eased measures do not mean all business will be allowed to operate.’

Social, sports and entertainment activities and gatherings remain banned until further notice. 
Everyone else will be expected to stay at home. Schools and colleges would remain closed.

Public transport will be allowed to operate at 70 percent capacity in a controlled manner and time. There will be strict adherence to the wearing of masks for all passengers.

At present Swazi police are giving on-the-spot fines to people found out of their homes for no legitimate reason.

The Prime Minister said, ‘There should be no reason to leave home except for workers in the permitted businesses and for citizens strictly looking for food or medical attention.’

He added in time the government would categorise areas of Swaziland as red, orange, yellow and green zones according to their levels of risk.

‘This is aimed at introducing a variable application of the partial lockdown from one specific geographical location to another,’ he said.

He added, ‘At the current rate, the Manzini region, and in particular the Manzini peri-urban and surrounding areas are classified as a red zone. Other cities and towns are categorised as orange zones.’

He said, ‘This zoning strategy will help government to target specific interventions to affected areas efficiently, such as testing, fumigation and decontamination of public spaces.’

See also

Coronavirus lockdown costs thousands of jobs in Swaziland, people evicted from homes

Army, police close down Swaziland’s main commercial city in bid to halt coronavirus spread

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