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COVID-19: GOVT DROWNING

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OF the 13 deaths, at least at the time of writing this article, related to COVID-19, two stand out in stark contrast and provide a window into government’s actions and preparedness to fulfill its obligation to not only protect the nation but to effectively counter this pandemic ostensibly because they speak to a knowledge deficit and logistical shortcomings from those the nation is looking up to for leadership at this critical time in the history of the nation.


In the first instance, a woman from the Manzini Region, who had tested positive and was found to be mildly symptomatic, was left to die at home because she allegedly refused to be taken to a health facility. Reporting on this case in her daily updates, Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi, at the time, said the woman had refused to be admitted to a healthcare facility. Her explanation was that they, which I believe refers to government and her apparatchiks, could not send a person to a health facility against their will.


Choose


She was quoted by the media as having said: “The only time we can forcefully take a person to hospital is when they are a minor, mentally unstable or are unconscious. Otherwise, it is their right to choose not to seek medical assistance.” Minister Nkosi was apparently incoherent in her response when asked if the COVID-19 regulations, which state that knowingly exposing others to the pandemic is tantamount to attempted murder, saying the patient’s decision seemed to be supported. Exactly what that means is not clear especially as it turns out that there was an apparent ignorance of the COVID-19 Regulations not just on her part alone but extending to government, which includes Cabinet.


Submitted


The COVID-19 Regulations, specifically Section 12(1) is succinct: “A person who has been clinically, or by a laboratory confirmed as having COVID-19, or who is suspected of having contracted COVID-19, or who has been in contact with a person who is a carrier of COVID-19 or contact, shall be submitted to medical examination, treatment, isolation or quarantine as the case may be.” Sub-Regulation (2) states; “A person referred to under Sub-Regulation (1) shall not refuse consent to an enforcement officer for admission of that person to a heath establishment or a quarantine or isolation site.”

Furthermore, the regulations provide that any person who contravenes Sub-Regulation (2) or fails to comply with an instruction or order of an enforcement officer, shall be placed in isolation or quarantine for a period of 48 hours, as the case may be, pending a warrant being issued by a magistrate, on application by an enforcement officer for the medical examination contemplated in Sub-Regulation (1).


Then two weeks after the woman’s death, an elderly male patient from the Hhohho Region admitted to Mbabane Government Hospital, who had also tested positive, perished ostensibly because of logistical issues in speedily ferrying him to the Lubombo Referral Hospital because he needed a ventilator. Confirmation of his positive status was in the morning but up until the patient’s death he had not been transferred to the Lubombo Referral Hospital to accesses a ventilator because of logistical issues.

That, apparently is how cheap the life of an ordinary liSwati is to government. If there ever was anything untimely about death then the two are typical cases of emaSwati losing their lives prematurely.  As I see it, both cases are, apparently, a consequence of negligence and intransigence and could have been avoided. And that, typically, is the life of an ordinary liSwati hence the historical care less attitude and neglect, by government, to invest in the health of emaSwati in favour of pouring billions of Emalangeni into vanity projects.


Infecting


Now we have to wonder if the female patient did not leave a deathly legacy by infecting her entire family, not to speak of others she may have come into contact with, just because of ignorance and carelessness. And who was careless in this instance, you may ask. The obvious answer is that it was government for being ignorant of and about the very regulations it authored. Right now we do not know, and may never know, if the female patient infected her entire family and everyone else she came into contact with before her demise.

It would, of course, not be in government’s best interests to trace and reveal this information.
That the elderly male patient died because of logistical challenges that delayed his transportation speaks volumes about this country’s readiness and preparedness to deal with the pandemic. And this leaves the nation susceptible to the ravages of the pandemic.

Yet the self-same government - with all its deficiencies - has been let loose to decide the fate of emaSwati children by reopening schools.

A government that collapsed the national healthcare system. A government that has run out of spaces to admit infected patients in the event of an upsurge in infections.

A government that has restrained from throwing every resource at the pandemic and left the nation at the mercy of donors. The simple conclusion is that government is drowning and incapable of leading, protecting and saving the lives of ordinary emaSwati because this is not in its nature.

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