Thursday, August 6, 2020

Swaziland passes grim milestone for coronavirus deaths, no end in sight

Swaziland (eSwatini) has passed a grim milestone for coronavirus deaths, with more than 50 confirmed fatalities.

Swazi Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi announced on Wednesday (5 August 2020) there had been 53 deaths so far from coronavirus (COVID-19). Ten of those deaths were reported in the past week.

The number of confirmed positive cases of coronavirus continues to rise and has reached 2,909. 

These numbers are those known to the Ministry of Health and are almost certainly an underestimate in the small impoverished kingdom where about 80 percent of people live in rural areas. The population of Swaziland is 1.1 million, according to latest United Nations estimates.

Figures released by the Ministry of Health show more young people than older had tested positive. Of the total, 474 (16.2 percent) were aged 19 or younger. In contrast, 178 positive cases were aged 60 or older (6.1 percent). A total of 838 cases involved people aged 30-39 years (28.8 percent).

Of the 2,909 people testing positive, the Ministry reported, 1,385 had recovered.

The Swazi Government reopened some schools in July and intends to open more soon. It is not known if the school reopenings contributed to the numbers of cases in young people. The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) has asked the High Court to close the schools again because it says it is not yet safe to open.

The Ministry of Health has not published a breakdown of the ages of those who have died.

There is no end in sight to the pandemic in Swaziland. Last week Nkosi announced hospitals were close to breaking point. At that time there had been only 28 deaths. A total of 23,000 coronavirus tests had been carried out, she said.

Separately, it was reported that ambulances were grounded because of a lack of fuel.

Also last week, Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg announced the cost of tacking coronavirus would leave a shortfall of US$207 million in this year’s national budget. He secured a loan of US$110 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is expecting further loans from the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

On Monday, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced a new set of guidelines aimed at reducing the number of deaths from coronavirus which included an improved turnaround time for test results by offering priority testing for those with symptoms and those already severely ill and admitted at various health facilities. 

He also promised improved care of suspected cases in regional hospitals by deploying additional equipment such as ventilators and oxygen delivering apparatus.

See also

Swaziland hospitals close to overwhelmed by coronavirus, says Heath Minister

IMF gives Swaziland emergency coronavirus loan but is only half what is needed

Swaziland pledges public sector job cuts, below inflation wage increases to secure IMF loan

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