Nearly one third of the total 187 cases of coronavirus in Swaziland (eSwatini) were reported in the past seven days. This comes as evidence suggests that the government’s partial lockdown of the kingdom is not working.
An attempt to lockdown the city of Manzini and restrict people going in and out has seemingly come to little as people ignore restrictions on travel, movement and businesses.
The whole of Swaziland has been in partial lockdown since 27 March 2020. Some of the restrictions have been lifted but there are still limits to which businesses and shops can open, the number of people who can gather together, public transport and travel between towns and regions. Schools and colleges are closed.
On 27 April a severe lockdown was imposed on Manzini, the kingdom’s main commercial city with a population of about 110,000. The clampdown was spearheaded by the Swazi National Commissioner of Police William Dlamini. He said he had the support of the army and the correctional services (prison guards).
He said roadblocks would be set up to stop people getting in and out of the city without good reason. People across Swaziland had already been told they needed written permission to undertake some journeys.
He said the three security services would visit business outlets to ensure that those prohibited from operating were closed and those allowed to open fully complied with guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health.
He added people found on the streets for no particular reason would be arrested for loitering.
The police were also to work with the Ministry of Health in screening people at roadblocks. If a person was found to have a high temperature they would be tested for COVID-19 and if positive put into isolation.
But, reporting by the Times of eSwatini on Tuesday (12 May 2020) suggests the lockdown is being widely ignored.
It reported streets bustling with people. ‘Public transport was in and out of the city transporting those who were rushing to their various places of employment while others were descending from them. The police who had been seeking permits or reasons of people seeking entry into the city were nowhere in sight at the entrance of the bus rank along Louw Street.
‘This activity was not limited to the public transport at the terminus but also saw dormant stalls coming to life as vendors selling an assortment of wares were active. The public was being offered a variety of delicacies that range from fat cakes, freshly baked scones to fresh fruits and vegetables.
‘This was the order of the day as clothing stores were operating as well. Before 10am, which is when the stores open for business, long queues were forming on the corridors leading to their entrances.’
It added police, army and prison wardens were visible in the city but in smaller numbers than previously.
It said, ‘Despite government having made it a prerequisite that people should wear masks when in densely populated areas, some were not wearing their masks while others had them under their chins.’
Swaziland has been struggling to get a grip on the coronavirus (COVID-19) with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. At least 300,000 people, according to the Swazi Government’s own figures are in desperate need of food.
As of 13 May 2020 two people had died of coronavirus and 187 had tested positive (including 61 in the past seven days), according to the Ministry of Health. In a statement Lizzie Nkosi, Minister of Health, said there was an upward trend in cases. ‘The practice of the public health measures need to be strengthened at all levels. The public needs to be very cautious and vigilant.’
Of the 187 cases reported, 110 were from the Manzini region, she said. She added that screening for the virus had been increased in Manzini and this might have impacted the numbers
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