Government has roped in the uniformed forces to help mitigation efforts against coronavirus.

by Arlana Shikongo

HEALTH professionals, logisticians and other multi-disciplinary experts from the uniformed forces will be assigned to work with the ministry of health and the National Health Emergency Management Committee on duties pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak.

Cabinet on Tuesday instituted these measures as part of it’s decisions on tackling the rapidly spreading virus, following president Hage Geingob declaration of a state of emergency.

The uniformed forces include defence officials, the Namibian Police and Correctional Services officers.

Cabinet also said funds will be made available for training, as well as acquisition of equipment and materials so that correctional officers, court officials, and all units of the police can be issued with the necessary protective materials when conducting their duties.

The Namibian on Wednesday reported that the government intends on making N$134 million available to tackle the pandemic.

Cabinet also instituted specific measures to be undertaken at police holding cells and at correctional facilities.

The Cabinet stipulated that separate detection facilities should be provided for new incoming accused persons or suspects, and that a routine screening should be conducted before they are admitted.

Furthermore, it encouraged that police holding cells be decongested.

A media release issued by police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga on Wednesday announced that all visits to trial-awaiting inmates by members of the public are suspended, with the exception of emergency visits.

“All police training facilities are on lockdown, thus no visits are permitted for the duration of the state of emergency,” he said in the statement.

The use of contact-surface materials such as alcohol breathalysers and fingerprinting machines have also been suspended.

“[Police] officers will resort to using blood testing kits for cases of suspected drunken driving offences [and] taking of fingerprints is suspended and will only apply to emergencies or special cases, such as those of suspects in criminal cases,” Ndeitunga said.

Furthermore, he noted that the police will continue monitoring liquor outlets, and advised owners to take the initiative in guaranteeing their own safety and the safety of their customers.

“[The police] will continue to monitor the situation and ad hoc measures may be inevitable, should it be discovered that these establishments pose a potential threat to the lives of the citizens,” he said.

He also said internal precautionary measures are in place to ensure that officers can continue providing policing services without compromising their own health, and that of the public.

The correctional services have also placed restrictions on visitations to prisons around the country.

“There will be no visitations for the next 30 days, however, special accommodation will be made for official visits,” explained the Namibia Correctional Services commissioner, Sam Shaalulange, during a brief interview with The Namibian earlier this week.

Shaalulange explained that official visits include those by lawyers or any legal representatives who need to visit a client in prison. Those individuals will also be required to practise the utmost sanitation measures upon entry, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Whoever visits in an official capacity will also undergo the hygiene measures put in place, such as washing their hands and keeping some distance between lawyers and their clients,” he said.

To this, Cabinet added that a limited number of family members will also be granted special visitation rights, as determined by the relevant authorities.

Shaalulange said a restriction has also been placed on food coming into prisons from outside and that this will not be allowed during the 30-day suspension period.

“There will also be no food brought for inmates from outside. Inmates will only get meals prepared within the correctional service. We provide them the necessary three meals per day,” he said.

Regarding measures for soldiers, Namibia Defence Force (NDF) brigadier general Sofia Ndeitunga explained that the NDF will simply follow specific measures recommended by WHO and those put in place by the government.

“NDF has no specific measures that are not guided by WHO. This is a new virus as we all know, and we are just following the WHO guidelines and measures as per the national response plan,” Ndeitunga said.

She said preparations are underway to provide soldiers nationwide with sanitation and protective materials.

Furthermore, Ndeitunga said that the NDF will continue work as usual to protect the nation as per their mandate.

“We are going to do our normal work. We are soldiers and cannot afford to sleep.

“Of course we have guidance for them to protect themselves during the performance of their duties, but we are going to do our normal work,” she said. 

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