Friday, March 19, 2021

Swaziland relaxes coronavirus lockdown amid confusion over vaccines and fear of third wave

The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has announced the reopening of schools and a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, even though vaccinations have been delayed and there continues to be a threat of a third wave of the virus in the kingdom.


Themba Masuku, the Swazi Acting Prime Minister, on Thursday (18 March 2021) announced the reopening of schools; reopening of religious gatherings; resumption of community gatherings; reopening of low-contact sports and the resumption of the sale of alcohol.


Schools would start to reopen on 29 March, but Masuku did not announce details of how this would happen. But he did say testing, treating and isolation centres had been set up in all regions of the kingdom to be accessed by pupils and teachers.


Religious gatherings could restart on 19 March. Weddings of up to 100 people under coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols would also be allowed from the same date. 


In a statement he said, ‘Sporting codes being allowed to resume operations are: angling, athletics, cricket, cue sports, cycling, darts, equestrian, golf, shooting, tennis, teqball, chess, gymnastics, swimming as well as Premier League and National First Division football. The reopening of football also covers the operations of all junior and senior football national teams.’


The sale of alcohol would be allowed from 22 March 2021. Liquor outlets would be allowed to operate from Monday to Thursday between 9am and 5pm. Alcohol consumption remained strictly for home consumption.


Public transport would be allowed at 100 percent seating capacity with no passengers standing with effect from Friday 19 March 2020. 


The Swaziland Government had issued mixed messages in recent days about the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. Countries across the world had suspended its use after fears it could cause blood clots.  At first Swaziland said it would continue to use it and then quickly changed its mind and suspended use.


Now, Masuku has changed the decision again. In his statement he said, ‘Let me take the opportunity to inform the nation that government has consulted widely with scientists and health experts who have all spoken with one voice that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for use.’


He added, ‘The vaccination exercise is completely voluntary. Health workers will be inoculated in the first phase followed by the elderly, those living with co-morbidities and essential workers. Government continues to source more vaccine candidates such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik V and Mordena to cover all Emaswati above the age of 18.’


The relaxation comes less than two weeks after they were extended amid fears that a third wave was about to hit Swaziland. On 6 March 2021 Masuku had said the 17,000 people testing positive and the 652 deaths in the previous year were ‘nothing short of alarming’. 


He added Swaziland expected a third wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) to strike. He called the situation ‘simply unimaginable and heart-breaking’.


See also


Swaziland U-turn on use of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine


Swaziland continues to use AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, despite global health scare


Swaziland extends coronavirus lockdown and prepares for third wave to strike

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