BUSINESS owners in the Erongo region has issued a distress call saying their busineses would not survive the latest lockdown imposed on the region.
Those leading these concerns are businesses operating in the hospitality and culinary industries.
They said more retrenchments could be on the cards as businesses would struggle to cushion the impact of the latest measures.
President Hage Geingob yesterday announced a stage 1 lockdown for the entire Erongo region until 22 June.
The lockdown came into effect yesterday.
Geingob said residents failed to adhere to state of emergency regulations – hence the extension of the recently imposed stage 1 lockdown on the region.
Speaking at State House yesterday, the president said the extension was prompted by the potential for community transmissions.
Business owners who spoke to The Namibian said their coffers are running dry.
Andreas Maischatz, operator of the Casa Mia group, which operates a hotel, casino, sports bar and restaurant, said since the lockdown all their operations have been running at a loss, and if Walvis Bay doesn’t move to stage 3 soon, he has to let go of his staff.
“I have nothing in the reserve and I can’t take out a loan. I have no collateral. This is not my hotel, I am renting it. The sports bar, which was our cash cow, has not been operating since March. Our room occupation has dropped from N$200 000 a month to about N$60 000,” Maischatz said.
Another business owner in the hospitality and tourism industry said: “I still have money for a month. Thereafter, I will have to close my business if nothing changes. I only have work if I can leave town, and that’s not happening right now.”
Garven Theron, a bar owner in the Narraville neighbourhood, has already given his employees three month’s notice.
“The bar was my only means of income. My wife is unemployed, and unfortunately I cannot maintain four households. I had to give my workers notice,” Theron said.
The owners of a general supplies shop, which has been offering goods such as furniture, hardware, kitchenware and cleaning chemicals at discounted prices are also looking at closing its doors and laying off about 30 people.
Another 30 people at a local joinery supply shop are facing the same predicament.
The Erongo region has thus far recorded eight Covid-19 cases, of which seven were reported in the past two weeks.
President Geingob said Covid-19 testing will be expanded in the region, while the government will expand contact tracing of secondary contacts.
“The risk level for Walvis Bay and surrounding towns is high. This necessitates more stringent measures to curb the spread beyond Walvis Bay,” the president said.
Since elderly people are more vulnerable to the virus, Geingob directed that all old age homes in the Erongo region be put in isolation.
He also called on caregivers to have the appropriate personal protective equipment.
“As a result of steps already taken, Namibia has the opportunity to contain possible community transmission within identified geographical areas and prevent the uncontrolled spread of infection throughout the country. We aim to possibly stop the spread altogether through effective detection, quarantine, testing and treatment.”
He said the government is committed to restarting the domestic economy, but this may not be possible if there is community transmission.
“We must control the spread of infection, with a view to stopping it in order to resume economic activity optimally. We can maintain our health in a way that protects our families, communities and also create a safe environment to welcome tourists back as soon as possible,” he said.
Minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula said stage 1 lockdown regulations remain with a few minor changes.
He said essential and critical service providers will still be operating during lockdown, including healthcare workers, emergency personnel and the media.
“All residents in the restricted area are not allowed to leave their homes during the lockdown period. Only leave your home when it is absolutely necessary, for example to get food, seek medical care or access essential services,” he said.
He said the sale of alcohol remains prohibited and gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people.
Shangula said the government urges employers to let employees work from home as far as possible.