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MBABANE – Is there a safe way for our government to reopen borders? That’s a question that’s getting a lot of attention from heads of state, border security officials, and economic ministers globally.

The closure of borders (partial or full) in response to COVID-19, and the suspension of international travel between many points, are said to be affecting world trade.

As countries think about opening borders to visitors who might be coming on flights of eight, 10, or 12 hours’ duration,   the Federation of the Eswatini Business Community (FESBC) notes that they face a daunting set of tradeoffs and logistical questions.


“Border reopening amid this pandemic is going to require coordination with other countries and with domestic industries that enable, or depend on, international travel. The reopening should be done in ways that make travellers feel confident about being in a country that’s not their own. Delays and missteps—there will inevitably be some—will be extremely costly if countries don’t build effective border bio-security regimes,” said FESBC.

Wikipedia defines bio-security as a set of measures aimed at preventing the introduction and/or spread of harmful organisms, in order to minimise the risk of transmission of infectious diseases to people, animals and plants caused by viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms.
FESBC has shared key steps that the country’s government should consider in reopening. One is measuring the economic benefit against the risk to the Eswatini population.

“The decision about which travellers to let in should be based on two factors: the value of specific foreign visitors to our country and the risk that they could trigger new outbreaks of COVID-19 in our towns and cities.


“Foreign visitors’ value is a function of the direct contribution they make to your gross domestic product (GDP) by being in our country (whether by supporting aviation or tourist industries, providing income to educational institutions, or partnering with domestic businesses). These visits may also have a societal value—such as maintaining family contacts—or a value rooted in other bilateral considerations. The bilateral considerations may relate to countries’ cultural ties or shared national security interests,” reported FESBC.
Against these positives, government, according to a statement shared by FESBC Vice President Hezekiel Mabuza, should weigh the health risks.
“This requires an analysis of several factors, including the infection rate in the origin country; the confidence we have in the origin country’s ability to test, track, and trace; and the maturity of our own bio-security regime.

This last consideration—our own bio-security regime—is critical because it is inevitable that, after we open up to more travellers, someone coming to our country will be an asymptomatic carrier of the disease. At this point in the history of COVID-19, countries have no way to guarantee that they will never have another infection,” said Mabuza.

With so much information to convey to would-be visitors—and because of the non-static nature of the health risk— FESBC says border officials may want to set up a system of colour codes (agreed between countries) to signal bio-security levels.
As an example, the system could categorise flights as follows:

l     Green: Few or no bio-security requirements are imposed.
l     Blue: Limited bio-security measures are required prior to travel - perhaps just a need for passengers to show travel history for the previous two weeks.
l     Yellow: This higher level of risk might trigger a requirement for a fresh COVID-19 test for all passengers before boarding.

l     Orange: Two tests—one in the origin country and another at your border—along with self-quarantines upon arrival might be needed.
l     Red: Passengers on these flights, in the highest bio-security risk category, might have mandatory two-week quarantines upon arriving on our shores.

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: Spread of COVID-19
Is government truly willing to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country?