Mbabane: When the novel Coronavirus outbreak hit China in late December and January, the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini sprang into crisis mode.
Hard-hit cities like Wuhan, where the outbreak began, went into complete lockdown. Millions worked from home or self-quarantined for weeks on end. New hospitals were built in a matter of days to treat the rising number of patients. People who broke quarantine rules or lied about their travel history were detained. Laws have been set worldwide to control of the virus among which are astounding ones like Scotland’s where citizens above the age of seventy (70) years are not to be found loitering the streets failing which are arrested.
In China the measures were drastic, but they paid off, with the situation slowly stabilizing, and the rate of new cases decreasing daily. Since the outbreak in Mainland China there aren’t reports of new cases.
Though there is no large outbreak of the virus in Africa or Latin America, several countries in those regions reported their first cases last month, raising concerns the virus may continue spreading.
In Africa, cases have been confirmed in Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
After confirming the country’s first case, Nigerian authorities expressed confidence in their ability to handle the outbreak, saying the West African Ebola outbreak had prepared the continent well.
However, the WHO has warned that an outbreak could hit Africa much harder than it did China. There are obstacles that could complicate hygiene practices and virus containment; only 42 per cent of Nigerians have access to soap and water on their premises, while 25 per cent have no access to water at all.
The continent is now preparing preventative measures, such the monitoring of entry points and border crossings by soldiers.
At the height of the outbreak, countries including the US, Italy, Indonesia, South Africa reported that they were repatriating their residents from the disease stricken countries.
Against this backdrop, while a majority of countries with people in the countries already struck by the deadly Coronavirus are making efforts to repatriate their citizens back home, Eswatini government seem not to be thinking of anything closer to that. The Coronavirus has been confirmed in over 80 countries worldwide and three of these are in Africa.
This fact can be drawn from comments made by acting Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Principal Secretary Joel Nhleko.
These two government officials told Independent News that government was not planning to repatriate its citizens from Coronavirus stricken countries, more especially those from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Dlamini said government bears no responsibility in ensuring the repatriation of citizens from coronavirus stricken China to the country since none of them are recorded in the official government data base, adding that Eswatini doesn’t have an embassy at the PRC which would provide a record of the Eswatini populace in that country.
Dlamini said the only remedy would be for relatives to come forth and report people living in China and seek their repatriation with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Such sentiments were shared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Principal Secretary, Joel Nhleko, who said Emaswati who go abroad for whatever reason should take it on themselves to seek the country’s embassy where they would register themselves as citizens of Eswatini, which would make it easy for the Kingdom to track citizens for instance, during emergency cases like plane crashes and other natural disasters.
Nhleko said it was unfortunate that unlike other countries like the Republic of South Africa the Kingdom of Eswatini didn’t enjoy bilateral relations or have embassies with Mainland China and many other international countries, especially overseas, which made it difficult for the government to stand up and act in cases such as the advent of the deadly Coronavirus which started in Wuhan, China.
Just like the government acting spin doctor said, the PS said the onus was upon parents or relatives of those citizens staying in those affected countries that need to come to the ministry and report such people who lived overseas and only then can they be able to act. The PS said so far only a single case of a Liswati who lived in Wuhan was reported at the ministry and immediately made a follow up and found that the Liswati was safe and not infected. Nhleko said the Liswati could have been brought back to the country but Wuhan authorities insisted that residents in that city should be quarantined all for safety reasons pending the assessment of the situation.
Nhleko insisted that from their end, Emaswati in and outside the country are perfectly safe and out of danger. He said the Eswatini Government is in talking terms with Mainland China and seeking the tracking of any Liswati in that country so that they can be assessed because in the end they will return to the Kingdom. The PS said it might be a good idea for Emaswati who travel to other countries to also report with the local Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, before they go, so that they can be noted and their whereabouts known. He said many Emaswati can be lost in overseas countries without trace due to neglecting government processes like liaising with the local relevant ministries.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Home Affairs through its communications office said Emaswati should not fret, but mingle freely with Asians including Chinese people living in the Kingdom, many of them who are running businesses especially in and around the Industrial Site in Matsapha.
This comes after many Emaswati expressed their fear of mingling with foreigners especially Asians and the Chinese people. The ministry said the Chinese people residing in the country had been doing so, long before the outbreak of the disease, therefore they should not be in fear. “They should be treated as any Liswati,” the ministry pleaded.
Coronavirus is a new disease first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and now called COVID-19. It continues to spread, primarily in China but cases have also appeared in some two dozen other countries.
Here’s what we know so far about this virus, as reported by NPR’s daily science podcast Short Wave.
What kind of disease is this?
The outbreak is caused by a coronavirus. Common human coronaviruses cause mild to moderate upper respiratory symptoms, including the common cold, while more severe types can cause pneumonia and death. The name for this kind of virus comes from the crownlike spikes it has on its surface — “corona” is Latin for “crown.”
This strain of the virus was initially called 2019-nCoV for now, which is short for “2019 novel coronavirus.” On Feb. 11, the World Health Organization gave an official name to the disease it causes: COVID-19. It’s only the third strain of coronavirus known to frequently cause severe symptoms in humans. The other two are MERS and SARS.
Where did it come from?
Coronaviruses originate in animals — like camels, civets and bats — and are usually not transmissible to humans. But occasionally a coronavirus mutates and can pass from animals to humans and then from human to human, as was the case with the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s. (SARS stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome.”) China’s National Health Commission confirmed that 15 health care workers have become infected, indicating that the virus can spread from human to human.
Most, but not all, of the first known cases in December 2019 were traced to an animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan and are believed to have come from contact with live animals that were infected. The market has since been closed. Wuhan is a major logistics and transportation hub. It lies about 500 miles west of Shanghai and is home to more than 11 million people.
Locations with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases, by WHO Region
- Dominican Republic
- United States
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
- Sri Lanka
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea