By Bodwa Mbingo | 2021-02-20
His Majesty King Mswati III has announced a new and effective COVID-19 treatment through an anti-bacterial drug that he confirmed is very useful in the fight against the pandemic.
The King said government has already been instructed to immediately procure this drug as it has remarkable success by producing a recovery in a short space of time. He said that should happen while the country awaits the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines.
Speaking in his Speech from the Throne at the State opening of the third session of the 11th parliament in Lobamba yesterday, the King said they discovered this treatment after he tested COVID-19 positive for a couple of days on the first week of January. He expressed gratitude to the president of the Republic of China on Taiwan for sending through this medication to help treat me. Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi in an interview with this publication clarified that the drug is called Remdezvir and is an anti viral drug.
She said there are currently limited amounts as it is not yet part of essential drugs.
“We are finalising protocol for medicines regulator’s approval. The amounts we have are available for ICU doctors and can only be administered through IV (drip),” she said.
The King continued that he believes that his testing positive was to bring to light the discovery of this treatment.
He said he did not announce his status then but when he intended to mention it, he discovered that he was then negative.
“However, the protocol of the drug requires that you take it for 10 days while the practise for COVID-19 says, be on medication for two weeks. I therefore, remained in hospital after the 10 days to satisfy the doctors that everything was okay, and we thank God they found that I had fully recovered,” said the King.
He said Emaswati must seek this drug as soon as they discover they are positive.
He said there have been impressive reports of a high recovery rate among those who were treated with the drip at an early stage.
The King further observed that as the country looks forward to finding solutions to ending the pandemic, various countries have developed several vaccines. He congratulated them and hoped that these will be made available to the whole world, as coronavirus knows no boundaries.
“We have already instructed government to acquire these vaccines for our people as soon as possible.
The processes of accessing them has been put in place. However, it may take a while as they are not easily available.
Therefore, we are still making concerted efforts to finding the right vaccine that will really deal with this particular problem,” he added.
He said this is a critical time for countries to work together to curb this pandemic and support the rebuilding of their economies.
He said it has been proven that no country can succeed alone so the very strong participation of others, whether developed or underdeveloped, is very important.
“Maswati, it is obvious that the pandemic is not yet over, we all wish it was.
Let us heed the advice of government and health officials on how best to curb the spread of COVID-19, so as to protect ourselves as well as others.
Therefore, people must stay and work from home to avoid unnecessary travelling. Only leave home if it is very important and your life cannot do without it.
As we do so, let us remember that the virus still lurks for an opportunity to return for a third or even a fourth wave. We should not allow it,” he emphasised.
3-year plan to reduce expenditure, increase revenue
Noting that government’s revenue loss and high expenditure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is now beyond measure as no one can project its lapse, the King has disclosed a three-year plan targeting to reduce expenditure and improving revenue collection in the country.
He said recent economic projections reflect a contraction of the domestic economy. Nonetheless, he noted that there are indications of a rebound benefitting from recovery in monetary output.
“As a country, we are already on a monetary consolidation course to try and contain the distress in the economy and we are committed to a Fiscal Adjustment Plan (FAP). To maintain macro-economic sustainability, a sizeable plan will be implemented over the medium term. This will take place in the next three years, targeting to reduce expenditure and improving revenue collection,” he remarked.
The King said, however, in the current year the country was fortunate to get financing from international organisations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to fully finance the budget. He said access to these funds have made a major positive impact in closing the monetary gap and reducing arrears.
“The impact of the pandemic on business has been severe. Many companies have closed, others have dropped in performance and lost profits, forcing them to retrench staff even before the workers could develop themselves to stand alone.
“Business start-ups also proved difficult with potential customers forced to stay home. Therefore, much needs to be done to realise economic recovery and it has to start with ensuring that we successfully conquer the pandemic and declare our efforts as a mission accomplished. I trust this will not be long from now,” he added.
The King is pleased that government continues to foster the development and promotion of small and medium enterprises in the country.
He said some achievements in this sector include the Manzini Trade Hub, informal traders revolving fund, leather products and participation in international forums, to mention but a few.
He said the recent launch of a E45 million SME revolving fund will handsomely assist to revive their businesses from the negative effects of the pandemic.
“Despite this difficult period, we are encouraged that the country’s reserves have remained stable. The expectation was that they would be a lot further down, but God has been on our side.
This will also be a tough year so we will have to be very cautious with our spending and be vigilant in our fight against corruption, particularly with the uncertainty over the lifespan of the pandemic,” he said.
The King further advised government to continue ensuring that the economy does not collapse as witnessed in other countries around the world. He observed that some have declared an inability to finance their budgets while only a properly managed fiscus and carefully guarded reserves will ensure Eswatini averts such a situation.
He said everyone should bear in mind that not many economies are growing due to the negative impact of this pandemic. He said this will make it difficult for them to be extremely generous to others.
“We need to be proficient by achieving more with less in the use of government resources in order to attain macro-economic stability, accelerate economic growth, create jobs, raise incomes, provide for the welfare of those less privileged and reduce poverty. Let us increase our efforts to curb corruption and take punitive measures against those who will not work with us in maintaining healthy reserves,” he added.
King calls for safe reopening of schools
His Majesty the King has expressed concern that the effecting of lockdowns that have kept people at home has sadly also meant closing schools resulting in many children lagging behind in their lessons, as only a few are attending classes.
He noted that a year has gone by and everyone is now keen to see all their children returning to school. He said there is a need to ensure that this process is carried with due care and attention so as to realise a safe reopening environment that will not cause a rise in new infections.
On another note, the King highlighted that from the day the virus was discovered in the country, government has gone all out to fight the pandemic and in the process it was discovered that there were many areas that could be developed to provide services the country lacked in the past.
“We managed to develop a medical laboratory that has enabled us to produce covid-19 test results locally, whereas we previously had to send our samples to neighbouring countries. The outbreak has presented a need for the country to look into the development of a local centre for disease control (CDC). This would aid early detection of viruses and future outbreaks and can also assist in analysing new vaccines prior to use by the nation,” remarked the King.
His Majesty also pointed out that the country has also been equipped with an oxygen supply facility to avert a life-threatening shortage that was experienced for a while. These facilities, he said, have already demonstrated how they will strengthen the country’s health systems, post-COVID-19 pandemic, for other serious health cases. He said it is encouraging to learn that the new facilities have recently been used to save the lives of a few snake-bite victims.
Moment of silence observed for COVID-19 victims
His Majesty King Mswati III and Her Majesty the Indlovukazi yesterday joined parliament and the nation is observing a moment of silence in honour of all that lost their lives due to COVID-19 in the country.
The King in this speech further highlighted the unfortunate part of COVID-19 managing to claim some casualties as over 600 people, among who were government officials and members of the general public, lost their lives to the virus.
He also recognised the country’s healthcare workers who contracted the disease while responding to their calling.
“This is very sad because we have lost valuable expertise that were providing essential support to those in need. May they be blessed for their commitment to the national cause, which has helped many people recover and are back with their loved ones. “To all the families who have lost their relatives and to those who are going through the healing process while receiving medical attention, wherever they may be, we say rest assured that our prayers are with you,” he remarked.
King says capital projects pivotal for investment
As the country sets out on its recovery path, the King wants sharp focus to be directed at promoting investment opportunities to attract investors despite the restrictive COVID-19 regulations.
He said the country will thus continue to prioritise and support efforts towards infrastructure development in the medium term, with focus being on projects with higher multiplier effects for resilient economic recovery.
He said among these is the development of a 300mw coal fired thermal power plant at Lubhuku in the Lubombo region. He said the nation will be pleased to hear that it is technically and economically viable. “Government shall ensure the completion of the feasibility study and that funds are secured for the development of the facility this financial year. Other studies for all infrastructural projects, including a referral hospital, are near completion and shall continue at the required pace. We will also look to constructing new factory shells to enhance local and foreign direct investor attraction,” he said.
The King highlighted evidence that COVID-19 has given everyone enough time while at home to come up with innovative ways to strategise on how best they can support one another in making things better for the kingdom.
In the process of not being able to attend many activities, he said, alongside Emaswati, he has also been doing a lot of research for ideas for the country’s economic recovery plan. He said there is need to put these to action for the benefit of all, particularly the youth.
“We want to thank companies, individuals, organisations, countries and development partners that have been very supportive during this most difficult time. We have received technical experts to set up our facilities, personal protective equipments (PPEs), medical equipment, medicines and health experts, to assist us with our efforts. The business community, corporates and individuals, locally and from out of our borders, have also contributed significant amounts of money to the country which has enabled us to cope to this day,” he remarked.
The King pointed out that there are many other organisations that also made valuable contributions towards the country’s resource mobilisation, and to whom everyone is very grateful. He said this support has benefitted the people in the communities with food and household needs.
He believes that many Emaswati can say they were not neglected during this pandemic and we will continue to care for them even now.
“The spirit which has been developed by COVID-19 is one of sharing and supporting one another which is encouraging and very necessary in such times. We do hope that post COVID-19, this spirit will continue because this is the way we will overcome any challenge coming our way. The confrontation with COVID-19 has given us many lessons on things to tackle for our struggling economy.”
Eswatini ahead of pack in AIDS fight
The King is impressed that the country is ahead of the pack in the fight against HIV/AIDS and is actually 10 years ahead of the global community by reaching and surpassing the set global targets of 95-95-95 by the year 2030.
The year 2020, the King said, was a very special one for the country for the milestone it attained in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He said Eswatini became one of the first nations in the world to reach and surpass the set global targets of 95-95-95.
“This means that the number of people living with HIV in the country know their status, are on life saving treatment (ARVs) and are virally suppressed. This is a highly impressive accomplishment as it is 10 years ahead of the global community whose target is 2030.
We embraced the call of “i-AIDS yindzaba yetfu sonkhe”.
“The country has taken initiative to set systems in place to fight the challenges of HIV/AIDS. We would like to thank our development partners, who have stood with us to achieve this. Let everyone continue to take HIV as our national responsibility to make sure we do not reverse the gains that we have attained,” he remarked.
‘Incwala ceremony helped us in fight against COVID-19’
The King has confidently declared that the annual Incwala ceremony that is one event that the nation cannot miss held at the end of last year contributed significantly to the fight against COVID-19 in the country.
He noted that regardless of the fact that there was the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation was able to celebrate Incwala and Emaswati came out in their numbers to attend this celebration. He sounded grateful that many people attended the ceremony and joined him and the royal family in celebrating the ceremony very successfully.
“We had it in mind not to make it one of the super spreader events, but we thank God that the outcome demonstrated that it contributed more to the fight against the pandemic. Those who attended had to go through screening and testing to ensure they were not carriers of the virus. In the process a number of people who would not have known their status discovered sooner that they were infected with the virus and were immediately taken to health centres for treatment.” He disclosed that many have since recovered.
King postpones attainment of Vision 2022
In reviewing the country’s Vision 2022 target of attaining a first world status by the year 2022 and in light of the current situation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the King has postponed the target of attaining the vision by next year.
The King yesterday observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has set the country back on its developmental programmes as an agenda of reaching 2022 as a first world country had been set.
He said the year 2020 presented the nation with numerous challenges from early in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and adhering to the economically stifling regulations that had to be put in place.
“We are now in 2021 and there are no clear signs, as yet, that we are going to make much progress without eliminating COVID-19. There are, however, positive signs that it is being brought under control.
Since we earmarked the year 2022 as the year to attain first world status, it is clear that we are not going to reach this target. We hope it will not take us too long to get back on track and attain it,” remarked the King.
He said it is not easy to even imagine which will be the rightful year to set as the new target while the nation is in the process of fighting this outbreak as no one has an idea when it will actually end. Nevertheless, he said, there is need to chart a way forward. He sounded hopeful that this year will be one in which the outbreak can be declared over.
Govt to prioritise adaptation plan to counter climate change
The King has announced that government shall prioritise the drawing up of a national adaptation plan to highlight research and nature-based solutions for the challenge posed by climate change in the country.
The King said it was pleasing to note that, the country is on a path to mainstream climate action by enhancing early warning systems and reducing emissions.
“The nation will recall that, in the last few weeks we experienced one of the heaviest floods ever seen in recent times. They caused a lot of damage to businesses, properties, human beings and the environment in general. Some people were left homeless and these are some of the negative effects of climate change,” he said.
The King saw a need to invest meaningfully in the country’s disaster preparedness and response, in order to protect people and assets, thereby achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He also pointed out that agriculture and food security is the critical path that the country has to navigate successfully in order to eliminate hunger and achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
He said government is also considering the implementation of key programmes that will spearhead the attainment of both household and national food security.
He said the necessity for food security and self sufficiency became evident during the pandemic as the existing supplies were unable to meet the needs of the people.
COVID-19 worse than past World Wars – King
The King has observed that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about a new normal to our way of life, is worse than the world wars witnessed across the globe in the past.
He said this underscores the gravity of the situation the world is faced with.
Welcoming those present as well as those who had joined yesterday’s parliament opening through various social media platforms, the King noted that it had become evident that this will now be our way of meeting one another since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, which has negatively impacted the kingdom and the entire world.
He highlighted that in response to the pandemic, the kingdom has had to put in place COVID-19 regulations and guidelines to protect its people.
He said the nation has been well educated on safety measures such as social distancing, steps to take when one is infected, how to practice good hygiene by washing hands and sanitising.
“Emphasis has also been made on the wearing of masks to ensure that we are all protected as well as encouraging our citizens to live healthy lifestyles. We thank God that Eswatini is now able to produce the surgical masks and other protective clothing. The country also effected partial lockdowns to keep people at home, allowing movement only for essential workers. This proved to be very effective as it curbed the spread of the virus,” he said.
His Majesty further commended the spirit of cooperation displayed by the nation during the partial lockdowns as this helped people to protect themselves as well as others.
King condemns rising domestic violence cases
The King has noted that the loss of jobs and income and the lack of access to social services due to the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought about tensions in some homes resulting in a rise in domestic violence cases.
He said it is certainly not easy when lifestyles are frustrated by the lack of access to basic needs, but strongly discouraged taking out these problems on family members and others. He reminded and cautioned the nation not to lose focus, but join hands in the fight against this outbreak, so that the country comes out with ways and means of winning the battle.
In the midst of it all, the King recognised and commended all the country’s frontline health workers for having been at the forefront of the country’s fight against the pandemic.
“You are our heroes. Through your bravery, you have been able to enter the facilities full of covid-19 patients to give them life. We all need to applaud this selfless dedication to your call of duty,” he said.
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