By Phephile Motau | 2021-01-08
Mbabane - ACTING Prime Minister Themba Masuku has announced the banning of all kinds of gatherings in the country except for funerals to be attended by people not more than 50 people.
This, he said, was meant to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections and lessen the burden on the country’s health system. He said this is with effect from midnight. Masuku announced these measures meant to strengthen the partial lockdown at a press conference held at Cabinet offices yesterday.
Masuku said in compliance with Regulation 51 of the COVID-19 Regulations 2020, His Majesty’s government, through the sustained counsel of Their Majesties, had taken the decision to strengthen partial lockdown restrictions to disrupt the spread of the virus.
Masuku said all gatherings, including church and memorial services were banned for the next 14 days.
He said although funerals would be permitted, only 50 people were allowed to attend. Masuku emphasised that they should last only for two hours and not beyond.
The acting PM added that physical meetings, when absolutely necessary, for first line responders, including health workers and security forces, were limited to 20 people, beyond which only virtual meetings should be held.
Masuku said since the beginning of December 2020, the Kingdom of Eswatini had experienced a huge surge in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths.
“We have recorded 139 deaths over the period and 4 120 new infections. May I take this opportunity, on behalf of His Majesty’s government, to pass our sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of the deceased,” he said.
Masuku added that as the second wave persisted to its peak, more people were presenting with symptoms categorised by rapid deterioration in clinical condition.
“Evidently, we are at the belly of a beast and decisive action needs to be taken to save lives and ease the pressure on our health system,” he said.
Masuku said there was a need to clearly understand that this pandemic was aggressively challenging our survivability as a nation. in his last press conference on Monday, where he delivered a message from His Majesty the King on COVID-19 vaccines, he alluded to the fact that they would be making regular updates as the situation on the ground demanded; in relation to the pandemic the country and world was confronted with.
“With the guidance and counsel of Their Majesties, may I remind all Emaswati and those who reside in this Kingdom that the core mandate of His Majesty’s government under the Tinkhundla system of governance includes, but is not limited to, inclusive nation building, promoting and protecting the health of nationals and the promotion and protection of the economy,” he said. Masuku added that the mandate also covered the education sector; which had suffered the brunt of this pandemic.
He said government continues to monitor the situation on the ground and will only open schools when it is safer to do so. He said this was to protect pupils, educators and parents. He said ordinarily, a new year marked a new beginning and renewal of the future in every culture.
“But, as I address you today, I cannot help but think of the pain, anxiety, panic and hopelessness of many Emaswati who are reeling under the siege of this monstrous enemy,” Masuku said.
He also said the country’s health system was under severe strain from the increasing number of officers new infections and deaths.
The acting PM in fact revealed for purposes of emphasising his point that as he was about to leave for the press conference his PS submitted a list of officers who had tested positive.
“We are already thinking of closing the offices for offices fumigation purposes and also find an alternative place to work. This war is serious hence we encourage Emaswati to cooperate,” he said.
Masuku said health workers and frontline staff were constantly being exposed to the dangers of this dreadful virus as they work tirelessly to save lives.
“We also need to deliberately and vigilantly protect them,” Masuku said.
Speaking of churches, Masuku said as a Christian, he knew very well that it would be impossible to sing while wearing masks, and hence they were also part of the gatherings which were prohibited.
Masuku further said the restrictions would be reviewed after 14 days or earlier if the COVID-19 situation deteriorated.
The acting PM said government fully appreciated that these tough measures would affect the economy and livelihoods, but they had no option but to relieve pressure on the country’s stretched health system and save lives.
“The current scenario is unsustainable as we continue to observe minimal compliance to COVID-19 regulations and protocols.
We are walking through an unparalleled time in our history where our usual normal cannot remain normal,” Masuku said. He added that the people had to adapt to a new normal that protects their lives and those of others.
Masuku further encouraged employers to allow their employees to work from home where possible in order to limit the movement of people.
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