by Yokany Oliveira

HEALTH minister Kalumbi Shangula said several groups of people who arrived before the initial lockdown became effective last month were not put under full quarantine.

Kalumbi Shangula

Shangula told The Namibian on Wednesday that the group of passengers who arrived on 26 March at the Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek “refused to be quarantined”.

A total of 86 passengers arrived that day, according to Shangula.

“The group at HKIA was uncooperative and refused to be quarantined. That time we did not have Proclamation Number 9 in place,” he said.

The State of Emergency Proclamation Act 9 of 2020 sets out the regulations governing the current state of emergency lockdown in Namibia.

“The Walvis Bay group could not be quarantined because the quarantine facilities were not ready. They were told to self-quarantine,” he said.

On Tuesday, president Hage Geingob announced the lockdown would be extended countrywide starting Friday, 17 April, to 4 May.

Shangula said passengers who arrived in the country before the initial lockdown was enforced on 26 March remain a risk for community transmission.

“About 85 travellers arrived at HKIA via a flight from Johannesburg on the 26 March 2020. These travellers were coming from various parts of the world, some of which might have been affected by Covid-19,” he said.

The Namibian reported last month that the group of passengers, some of whom were students, children and pensioners, arrived just a day after the government announced the closure of all borders for the 21-day lockdown after the seventh case of the coronavirus was confirmed.

The passengers waited inside a confined space at the airport for close to three hours, many without food and water, while waiting for the Covid-19 task force coordinator, Dr Bernard Haufiku, to authorise their release.

“This group was not sent into quarantine and went on to complete their destinations across Namibia,” Shangula said.

Shangula cited the case of 33 passengers who arrived at Walvis Bay on the 25 of March from Covid-19 affected countries, who were also allowed to go home without being quarantined.

“It is clear that the outbreak has not been suppressed. There is a case for a countrywide lockdown,” he said.

The health minister admitted the lockdown on the Erongo and Khomas regions has not been efficient in curtailing the spread of the coronavirus in Namibia.

“The current lockdown in the two regions has not been efficient. There has been a breach [in the] interventions with implications for potential community spread within the regions of confirmed cases, with the risk of higher spread in the entire country,” he said.

The first two cases of the coronavirus in the country were confirmed on 13 March. By 4 April, the number of cases had increased to 16.

Thirteen of the confirmed cases are travel-related, while three are local transmissions. All the cases have been contained to the Khomas, Erongo and //Kharas regions.

“The purpose of the lockdown is to suppress transmission, reducing the possibility of asymptomatic people with Covid-19 from further infecting others in the community,” Shangula said.

The health minister said the goal is to ensure each confirmed case infects less than one person on average to flatten the curve.

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