Government has noted with concern the surge in COVID-19 infections over the past week.

Last week alone, we had approximately 150 cases, which indicates a significant increase from recent weeks. And although this cannot yet be attributed as the so-called second wave, there have been projections that numbers will rise during the festive season as a result of increased movement of people.

Government wishes to once again remind the nation that COVID-19 is still a major health threat and that there are no indications that it will end anytime soon. Therefore, it remains everyone’s responsibility to do their utmost best to protect themselves, their loved ones as well as those they come into contact with, in line with the recently launched Mgcini WeSive campaign.

We continue to receive reports of continued disregard of COVID-19 precautionary measures by some Emaswati, particularly in the public transport industry, entertainment venues and some private gatherings. We wish to once again remind public transport operators that it is their responsibility to enforce compliance from their passengers. Likewise, drivers and conductors are bound by the COVID-19 Regulations 2020 to wear masks at all times and not expose their passengers to COVID-19. We should not wear a mask because we see a roadblock ahead but should make it a lifestyle to protect and to stay protected at all times.

We also continue to receive disturbing reports that some entertainment venues and night clubs are now operating all night and that alcohol is being served on site, while patrons share drinks and neither wear masks nor social distance. We wish to point out that this kind of irresponsible behaviour is the same one that has perpetuated the COVID-19 pandemic even at family level, as people return home to their families after such escapades. This is a reminder that drinking in public is not yet allowed and that alcohol is strictly for home use. All gatherings are also restricted to two and a half hours in terms of the recently amended COVID-19 Regulations.

As we usher in the festive season, we wish to emphasise the importance of staying safe. As we move around and about, doing our Christmas shopping and visiting relatives, let us not act recklessly as this is detrimental to ourselves and everyone else we may come into contact with. This also applies to religious gatherings, stokvel meetings and other gatherings. Community sporting activities remain banned until advised otherwise. Police will be very vigilant particularly around this period to enforce compliance.

The following preventative measures continue to apply:

  1. 1. Washing hands with soap and running water or using hand sanitiser
  2. 2. Wearing a face mask correctly; covering mouth, nose and chin, more importantly when you are in public or in the company of other people. Government has already made the wearing of masks compulsory for all emaswati when in public.
  3. 3. Watch your physical distance; keep a distance of more than one metre between yourself and others at all times

Accessing COVID-19 Vaccines

On another note, the Ministry of Health wishes to update the nation about the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility is a global initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure eventual COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live. 

The COVAX Facility provides this solution: through portfolio diversification, pooling of financial and scientific resources, and economies of scale, participating governments and blocs can hedge the risk of backing unsuccessful candidates just as governments with limited or no ability to finance their own bilateral procurement can be assured access to life-saving vaccines that would otherwise have been beyond their reach.

The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is open to all Member States including those who will self-finance vaccine procurement and those whose vaccine costs will be supported through the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) of the Gavi Alliance.  The Kingdom of Eswatini does not fall under the self-financing countries but will be supported through the AMC.

The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini is committed to procuring a COVID-19 vaccine when a viable candidate approved by appropriate regulatory bodies is available.  We have been requested and joined the COVAX Facility as a co-financing country.  Joining the COVAX Facility provides the Kingdom of Eswatini with the following:

  • • Access to vaccines - particularly beneficial for countries that cannot easily secure bilateral deals
  • • Likely at a lower cost than bilateral deals
  • • Diversified portfolio of candidates, reduces risk or reliance on one candidate
  • • Simplified procurement and price negotiations and processes, since handled by COVAX

Countries can pursue both COVAX participation and self-procurement at the same time, as a country we are pursuing both as we seek to ensure that our people will be protected.

There are 3 vaccine candidates that have released results:

  • ● 09th November 2020: Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech reported that their COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective and on 20th November 2020 applied for emergency authorisation from regulators.

o         Cold Chain Requirements: must be kept at an ultracold, minus-70 degrees Celsius.  

o         Doses: requires 2 doses, second dose given 3 weeks after the first one

o         Part of the COVAX facility

  • ● 16th November 2020: Moderna reports that its COVID-19 vaccine is found to be 95% effective

o         Cold Chain Requirements: stored frozen at minus-20 degrees Celsius, but it keeps for a month at refrigerator temperatures.  This could make it easier to distribute to pharmacies and rural areas that don’t have specialised freezers

o         Doses: requires 2 doses, second dose given 4 weeks after the first one

o         Not part of the COVAX facility

  • ● 23rd November 2020: AstraZeneca reports that its vaccine with Oxford University is up to 90% effective if the first dose is used and 70% if both doses are used

o         Cold Chain Requirements: can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for up to 6 months which will make it far easier to distribute and administer in much of the world

o         Doses: requires 2 doses, but the trial found that it was far more effective when the first dose was half the typical dose, with the second given a month later.  It remains to be seen which dose the company will submit to regulators for clearance

o         Part of the COVAX facility

Ongoing preparations for the Vaccine

We have already been made aware that initial supply of viable vaccines will inevitably be limited. The country will be provided with vaccines for 20% of the population for the first 18 months through the COVAX facility and has an option to procure additional doses at retail prices directly from the manufacturers. 

We have already started work to develop an allocation mechanism to target groups with the aim of reducing mortality and protecting the health system; as a start healthcare workers will be first to receive the vaccination to ensure uninterrupted health service delivery.  Assessments on vaccine profile and logistics required for delivery of the vaccine to the population have also been conducted to inform the vaccine candidate that would work best for our population and fit our cold chain infrastructure.  Lastly, Government has put aside funding and is engaging with various different partners to source additional funding to enable us to purchase the vaccines.


Senator Lizzie Nkosi

Minister of Health

30 November 2020

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