Swaziland Coronavirus Deaths Top 100 As Number of Tests Undertaken Falls

The number of deaths from coronavirus in Swaziland (eSwatini) has broken through the 100 barrier to 101. Meanwhile, the number of test results announced by the Ministry of Health is falling.

Three new deaths were reported by the Ministry on Monday. The number of tests reported over the seven days ended 14 September 2020 were 1,751. This compared to 2,365 over the previous seven days and 2,306 for the last week of August.

To date 5,104 people tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), according to official Ministry of Health figures. Of these, 4,374 had recovered.

Minster of Health Lizzie Nkosi reported on Monday a further three people - all aged in their sixties - had died of the virus, taking the total number to 101.

The number of deaths has risen slowly over the past weeks. On 1 August the total number of deaths was 43.

Swaziland has failed to get a grip on coronavirus. In March King Mswati III, the absolute monarch, ordered a partial lockdown of the kingdom. School and businesses were closed and restrictions on gatherings and travel were put into place. Many of these have since been eased.

The economy is broke and in early August Swaziland secured a US$110 million loan from the International Monetary Fund to help keep the kingdom going. It also got similar loans from the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB).

To secure the IMF loan the Swazi Government in a letter promised the IMF, 'We will contain public wage spending, continuing our policies of gradual employment reduction and lower-than inflation salary adjustments. We have commissioned an external review of the extra budgetary sector with the aim of rationalizing spending and transfers to key state-owned entities and merge entities with similar mandates over time.'

Later in August, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced a strategic economic recovery plan that would cost E30 billion (US$1.73 billion). The Swazi Government wants E23 billion of this to be privately financed.

The plan listed 97 specific projects across eight sectors of the economy that 'are ready to be implemented within 18-months beginning of 1 July 2020.' It said 40,126 jobs would be created.

Observers were sceptical that the plan could be realised. Swaziland has been trying for more than a decade to reduce the government's spending and to encourage private investment, especially from outside the kingdom. To date these efforts have largely failed.

Swaziland continuously scores poorly in surveys for the ease of doing business in the kingdom.

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