Eswatini’s principal border post with South Africa at Oshoek was shut for more than a day at the weekend as Covid-19 fears sparked what the Eswatini Observer newspaper described as “a panic” that ended all operations.
“The border post is functioning again, but only for trucks,” constable Buhle Simelane of the Royal Eswatini Police Force told Freight News on Monday afternoon.
No schedule was given about when automotive traffic would resume.
Eswatini’s landlocked status forced the reinstatement of truck services since around 80% of the country’s goods, including most supermarket items and all petroleum products, are imported from South Africa.
According to customs authorities contacted by Freight News, a South African health official informed Eswatini’s health ministry that a Botswana truck driver, who had tested positive for Covid-19, had entered Eswatini from South Africa to do a job in the sugar belt.
It was determined the driver was already in the country and that he had used Oshoek.
The health ministry says it wants to do contact tracing of other drivers who came into contact with him.
While the Oshoek facilities on both sides of the border were being sterilised, all traffic was diverted to Mananga and Mahamba border posts.
“This incident shows how ill prepared the authorities are for the pandemic,” said one Matsapha-based road freight company manager who preferred not to give his name because he received government business.
“It takes hours to backtrack from Oshoek to Mahamba, and Mananga is nearly on the other side of the country, so the disruption is considerable – particularly for perishables and the courier services,” he said.
At the weekend, Eswatini’s government extended a partial lockdown which was set to expire on May 19 to June 13. Last week, the number of confirmed cases rose by one-third, to 187.
Two Covid-19 deaths have been reported.