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UNIONS SLAM RELAXATION AMID SPIKE

By ZWELETHU DLAMINI | 2020-07-05

What is the rationale for further relaxation of the lockdown when the numbers of COVID- 19 cases are soaring is the question that the labour unions in the country are left with after the prime minister announced relaxed guidelines.

The relaxation of the conditions by the prime minister include increasing the numbers allowed in public gatherings to 100, increasing public carrying capacity to 80 per cent ahead of the reopening of schools.

Sectors considered high risk are also being allowed to open.

On the other hand, government had early this week announced projections indicating a surge on numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths by the end of the month expected under the prevailing conditions.

Speaking in separate interviews the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), The National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) and the Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA) all disapproved the decision by government saying it was not justified considering that the numbers are swelling each day.

SNAT Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini said the further relaxation amid the rising cases was an indication that the government has taken a decision to let things loose.

“They are simply saying labafako, abafe, labaphilako batawuphila and life has to go on,” he said meaning that government has given up on the preventive measures.

“We cannot support something that will be opening a can of worms. COVID- 19 has not yet ravaged rural areas where the elderly and the poor of the poorest reside. When it makes a landfall there, there will be an outcry. Now that they are forcefully opening schools, just give it two weeks you will see the consequences. The reason why they are opening up more businesses is so that when cases surge we cannot say this is because schools were opened, much against the national preparedness of same,” he said.

Transport

NAPSAWU Secretary General Thulani Hlatshwayo said in as much as the relaxation maybe good news to the various congregants of the country and to the public transport operators it was a dangerous move.

“But in terms of the easing of the lockdown, this is dangerous since our quarantine centres are nearing full capacity and that the health ministry had advised on a possible surge on the infection rate during this month and August.

The increase of numbers in gatherings, public transport and full operation of churches could see the numbers rising,” he said.

Similar sentiments were shared by SNA President Bheki Mamba who stated that the relaxation was not justified as government was not prepared to handle the current cases and was failing to provide the necessary response.

“This statement says come what may, government is concerned about the business and we no longer care about saving lives, some will die and some will live. You cannot relax and allow gathering of 100 people when new infections are on the rise and there are no medical supplies, personal protective equipment, human resources and COVID -19 supplies including test kits. Now they are changing the case definition and they say we must only test patients showing symptoms and leave out asymptomatic people and contacts of COVID-19 patients,” he said.

Tests

Mamba said this meant that the country wanted to present the cases as decreasing when it increased but only a few people were tested and left to spread the virus unattended.

TUCOSWA Acting Secretary General Mduduzi Gina  also said government was gambling with the lives of the citizens especially the elderly who were vulnerable to infections considering that they were the guardians of most of the learners who will be exposed as school opened.

“We realise that government has left us in a situation where it is every man for himself and God for us all. There is no clear rationale for the drastic increase of the number of  people in social gatherings from 20 to 100. We would expect gradual increase say first to 50 and monitor the situation before increasing it to 100. We can only hope that government has received funding to finance COVID-19 from the international financial institutions otherwise it would be a disaster,” he said.

 Gina said if government had the funding she should better insure the teachers so that they may be covered and compensated in the event they contracted the virus while on duty.

 He also added that government had not given the nation confidence that it will be able to handle the cases should more people need medical attention as a result of the relaxation.

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