Ambrose Dlamini, Prime Minister of Swaziland (eSwatini), warned people to lay off the booze during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. A ban on alcohol sales is to be lifted on 26 October 2020 after the kingdom has been dry for months.
Dlamini at a media event said, ‘Health experts have projected a second wave over the festive season because around this time there is generally more movement amongst people, big family gatherings and high consumption of alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, as the economy continues to open, there is more movement of people thus increasing the chances of the virus spreading.’
He added, ‘I would like to remind all Emaswati that while consuming alcohol can be a joyous occasion for some, it is important to observe not just the health guidelines but the liquor re-opening guidelines. These guidelines are to be observed strictly, failure to which we will not hesitate the close any establishment that fails to adhere to these protocols.’
He said alcohol affected the central nervous system and took away rational decision making. He said, ‘Alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and thus reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases. Alcohol alters your thoughts, judgement, decision-making and behaviour all which are required for people to take safety precautions to Covid-19. Heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, one of the most severe complications of COVID-19.
‘Additionally most people like to drink in groups and in areas without sufficient spacing or ventilation and it is impossible to wear masks and drink alcohol.’
The Prime Minister also said, ‘May I caution that the resumption of alcohol sales is not a license to hide behind alcohol to be violent against women and children.’
He said it was disheartening to continue hearing reports of gender-based violence regularly in the kingdom and the Swazi Government would push to ensure that perpetrators were taken off the streets and faced the consequences of their actions.
Independent News, eSwatini, an online newspaper, reported the Prime Minister’s address on gender-based violence came after there had been numerous reports of women and children who had been murdered mostly by their lovers. This included a mother and her four-year-old son who were allegedly stabbed and had their throats slit open by a man believed to be her boyfriend.
It added, this year there had been a number of crimes which involved killing of women. One incident reported on 20 August 2020, was that of a female pupil who was stabbed 31 times all over the body with a knife allegedly by her boyfriend. The stabbed girl was a pupil at Dwalile High School and was living at her boyfriend’s homestead.
On 8 February, a police officer was charged with two counts of murder after he allegedly killed his spouse and her male companion. He allegedly used a gun belonging to the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS).
Separately, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade warned traders not to exploit the situation created by the expected demand for alcoholic beverages by increasing prices.
There has been a decline in coronavirus cases in Swaziland. By Thursday (22 October 2020) the Ministry of Health had reported a total of 116 deaths and 5,814 positive cases of the virus. Of the positive cases, 5,468 people had recovered.
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