The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government has extended the partial lockdown of the kingdom as the coronavirus crisis reaches its first anniversary and the kingdom is no closer to getting life-saving vaccines.
The 17,000 people testing positive and the 652 deaths in that time were 'nothing short of alarming', Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said in a statement.
He said Swaziland expected a third wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) to strike.
He added the situation was 'simply unimaginable and heartbreaking. These past 12 months have not only been emotionally draining but have also left us with scars that will take years to heal as many families lost breadwinners, children and guardians.
'This is over and above the huge trail of economic destruction caused by the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods; as many EmaSwati were rendered jobless and businesses closed down. Our children have also been out of school for just about a year now.'
Masuku said the Swazi Government had previously declared a National Emergency and introduced several partial lockdown restrictions, increased bed capacity in hospitals and the number of critical health workers.
He said following a second wave of coronavirus in December 2020, more partial lockdown restrictions were introduced.
'It is gratifying to note that since the new restrictions came into effect, there has been a notable decline in both the number of new infections and fatalities as well as an increase in the number of recoveries.'
He said it was vital to continue to observe all health protocols in order to manage the situation. These include wearing face masks correctly at all times in all public spaces, observing social distancing protocols, washing our hands regularly with running water and soap and avoiding unnecessary travel.
Masuku added, 'It is also crucial that we ensure that all systems are in place to contain the forthcoming third wave which epidemiologists have warned us might be even more deadlier.'
He said, 'Government is currently finalising the necessary plans and structures to withstand the expected severe effects of the projected third wave. We have put in place the necessary interventions that will ensure EmaSwati are relatively safe from the virus and that our children can safely return to school and be adequately cared for in case of emergencies.'
Masuku added, 'When we invoked the last extension two weeks ago, we had also hoped that we would have received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines to start vaccinating our health workers and frontline staff. This process has also been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances but we have intensified our efforts to access the vaccines as soon as practically possible to start the vaccination exercise.
He said the Government had extended the partial lockdown restrictions by a further two weeks.