More than seven in ten businesses in Swaziland (eSwatini) have defied government regulations to combat the spread of coronavirus in the kingdom, a survey suggests.
The Southern African Research Foundation for Economic Development (SARFED) surveyed 50 businesses along the corridor linking Manzini, the main commercial city and Mbabane, the Swazi capital. It found only 15 maintained the coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations.
Swaziland went into a partial lockdown in March 2020 in an attempt to stop the spread of the pandemic. Schools were closed, travel bans were introduced and many businesses placed under restrictions.
In a commentary SARFED said businesses did not follow basic precautions such as sanitizing hands, wearing facemasks and maintaining social distancing.
SARFED Regional Coordinator Dr George Choongwa said, ‘As a civil society that promotes sustainable economic empowerment and development, we wish to encourage and warn businesses to always comply with the effort that government was doing in reinforcing health and safety measures for the continuity of the economy.
‘Firms should understand that at the centre of economic growth, compliance, especially in public, remains paramount.’
Choongwa said, ‘These institutions must understand that taking safety and health precaution is part of their social responsibility.’
He added, ‘Protection against COVID-19 is a fundamental human right.’
In September 2020, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report suggested the coronavirus crisis in Swaziland was having widespread damaging effects on unemployment and poverty and many jobs might not return.
The onset of coronavirus in March 2020 closed factories and other industries, including the service industry such as hotels and catering services. Workers were paid only for the days worked in March 2020, while the state of emergency declared on 17 March 2020 froze all economic activities in a range of sectors. The impact of these measures on people was immediate. The Ministry of Labour subsequently announced that 13 companies had laid off over 8,400 workers and the Minister announced (on 4 May 2020) that 8,429 would be paid salaries for April and May. The companies are mostly in the textile, hotels and catering sectors. They are part of 43 companies that have applied to lay off staff and requested an exemption from provident fund contributions to redirect the money to laid-off staff.
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