Churches across Swaziland (eSwatini) were thrown into confusion after the Swazi Government announced a partial reopening from coronavirus lockdown and hours later changed its mind.
This was not the first time the government announced changes to its lockdown policy only to overturn its decision.
The latest confusion began when Minister of Home Affairs Princess Lindiwe announced on Saturday (9 May 2020) that churches would be allowed to reopen but had to keep congregations to 70 percent of the church’s capacity. Hours later the Swazi Cabinet announced the rule had been changed. Instead, a maximum of 70 people would be allowed in churches.
At present the regulations guiding the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown restrict gatherings to a maximum of 20.
The decision to allow restrictions to be relaxed in churches came after lobbying from church leaders. No explanation was given as to why churches were given preferential treatment over other places where people gather, such as parks.
The Times of eSwatini on Monday reported the public reacted on social media with ‘shock and outrage’ at the news of the relaxation of the regulation. It quoted one post saying, ‘Let me just say that the decision to increase the number of people attending churches clearly shows that there is absolutely no scientific research that is informing government’s actions, but pure self-interest.’
This was not the first reversal by the Swazi Government. On 15 April 2020 the partial lockdown of Swaziland that had run for three weeks was relaxed. Days later it was tightened. Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini said people had become complacent and an increasing number of people were casual and lacked vigilance.
As of 10 May two people had died from coronavirus in Swaziland and 172 tested positive, according to official Ministry of Health figures.
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