As Swaziland (eSwatini) faces months without adequate numbers of coronavirus vaccines, and with a third wave of the pandemic feared, Acting Swazi Prime Minister Themba Masuku announced further restrictions to everyday life.
He said in a statement that the daily number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases increased since the first week of June 2021, 'and currently remains above 10 cases per day on average. This represents a more than doubling of COVID-19 cases that are being diagnosed since the beginning of June.'
He said on Friday (11 June 2021) Swaziland had recorded 82 new cases in the past week alone with three recorded deaths in the past three days.
'These numbers are a serious cause for concern particularly when we consider that from mid-March we were averaging five daily cases and had gone 18 days without any new recorded death.
'This is really concerning and provides a clear indication that a third wave of the pandemic is closer than we may think.'
He added, 'As we began the month of June 2021, we have realised a 20 percent increase in new cases for two consecutive weeks and the increase in positivity rates for COVID-19 to 2 percent.
'Although this increase may seem minimal, the numbers are a warning call for us to take swift action to prevent an uncontrollable increase in infections and minimise the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the population and the health system.'
Restrictions of one kind or another have been in place since March 2020, with relaxations and tightenings made over time.
Now, Masuku announced a raft of measures to take effect Monday 14 June 2021:
1. Religious gatherings:
Religious establishments will only be allowed to host one weekend daytime service, within a maximum of two and a half hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.
2. Community meetings:
Indoors: Only a maximum of 50 people can attend and this should be held within two hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.
Outdoors: A maximum of 100 people can attend and this should be held within two hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.
Only sporting codes categorised as low and middle risk will be allowed to operate as well as high level football such as Premier League, National First Division and National Teams. These activities will continue as per the guidelines previously outlined by the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs. Only formal sections of these sporting codes are permitted and thus social and informal sport remains strictly prohibited.
Liquor outlets will be permitted to sell alcohol from Mondays to Thursdays, between 9am and 5pm. Alcohol remains strictly for home consumption only.
5. Entertainment and Arts:
Entertainment and arts activities are allowed only in outdoor or open spaces with a maximum of 200 people in attendance with a duration of two and half hours and strict adherence to safety protocols
6. Funeral and Memorial Services:
A maximum of 50 people can attend funeral services and they should be held within 2 hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing. Memorial services, night vigils and Kufukama are strictly prohibited.
A maximum of 50 people can attend. The activity should be held within a maximum of 2 hours. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.
All shopping outlets will operate between 8am and 7pm. All other standard protective measures should be in place including 1.5m social distancing.
9. Public Transport:
Public transport vehicles are allowed to carry 100 percent sitting capacity, no standing. Standard measures including the wearing of face masks and sanitising should be implemented at all times.
10. Restaurants and food outlets:
Standard protective measures should be in place including social distancing of 1.5m. No alcohol should be sold or served after 7pm.
Schools at all levels will remain open and will continue to implement the blended learning approach [online and in-person classes] where applicable.
Swaziland received only 14,400 doses of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine this week when it needed 500,000 for the population of about 1.1 million people.
On distribution of the vaccines, Masuku said, 'We will start with health workers who received the first dose and those who are yet to be vaccinated. We continue to source more vaccines in spite of the global challenges experienced in vaccine access and we request for patience among the public.'