by Charmaine Ngatjiheue and Okeri Ngutjinazo

President Hage Geingob addresses the media on the current state of the novel coronavirus in Namibia on Tuesday, 24 March 2020. Photo: Garwin Beukes

THE government yesterday announced a partial lockdown for the Khomas and Erongo regions, effective from Friday.

This follows seven confirmed cases of Covid-19. This means internal travel restrictions will apply for a period of 21 days starting on Friday, 27 March 2020 to Thursday, 16 April 2020.

At a press conference yesterday, president Hage Geingob announced that confirmed Covid-19 cases had reached seven, with three Namibians and four foreigners.

The first two cases recorded were of a Romanian couple who had travelled to Namibia from Spain. The third case was of a German who had travelled to Namibia through Zimbabwe.

The fourth case was confirmed on Monday after a Namibian male tested positive for the virus following his return from London on 18 March.

Geingob said the situation is critical and shows that Namibia is not conducting tests properly.

Like the first two cases, the fifth and sixth cases are also travel-related. The fifth case is a 44-year-old Namibian pilot who went to Johannesburg on 7 February and returned on 13 February. Samples taken from him were positive and arrangements have been made to put him in isolation.

According to the government, the sixth case is a 21-year-old Namibian student at Wits University in South Africa. He was tested in South Africa, but travelled to Namibia before the results were known. The results were released yesterday and he was put into isolation.

Information on the seventh case is still sketchy with the person having no history of travel and the ministry believes it may be a local transmission.

The president noted that Cabinet met and received briefings on the status of Covid-19 in Namibia and deliberated on the necessary measures to strengthen detection, testing, quarantine, isolation and contact tracing, to mitigate the further spread of this deadly virus.

“Covid-19 is not only a threat to the lives of the Namibian people and the public health system, it also bears negative economic impacts threatening the survival of businesses and consequently jobs and livelihoods. Our key priority is therefore to curb the spread of this disease,” the president said.

Geingob said the extraordinary measures were adopted with the purpose of protecting the health, security and safety of the Namibian people, urging all Namibians to cooperate with the authorities and to remain calm, in order to ensure that public order is not compromised.

“While the pandemic that we are facing today is unprecedented, we are confident that working collaboratively, we will respond effectively to minimise the spread of the virus and loss of life, and restore the health of those affected. I appeal to all international cooperating partners and stakeholders and our private sector to support the government’s response and mobilise resources to combat the further spread of this virus,” the president said.

Geingob further launched a solidarity fund and urged Namibians to pledge donations. The Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) donated N$200 000, while Geingob pledged N$250 000 towards the fund meant to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa and vice president Nangolo Mbumba each pledged N$10 000. Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila pledged N$10 500 and deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah pledged N$10 100.

In light of the rising cases of Covid-19 in the country, Cabinet has directed that the travel ban is extended to all countries around the world for a period of 30 days and applies to all Namibians and permanent residents.

Reading the directives, health minister Kalumbi Shangula said special circumstances for the admission of certain persons into Namibia will be considered and approved by the relevant institutions, depending on the nature of travel to be undertaken, and the criticality of such mission to the national interest and safety and security of the country.

Shangula said all returning Namibians and permanent residents coming from high-risk countries are subject to mandatory supervised quarantine for 14 days, at their own cost.

“Special dispensation applies to business, commerce and trade missions and activities only from neighbouring countries, on a reciprocal basis, to facilitate the flow of supplies, goods, commodities and services into Namibia. The admission of people returning to Namibia from neighbouring countries will be considered taking into account the criticality of such mission to the national interest and safety and security of the country,” he said.

The health minister added that all government employees as well as those at state-owned enterprises and private sector may operate from home for the next 14 days, except those providing critical services. The categories of affected services will be announced in the next days.

He further urged the public to remain at home and avoid public gatherings at places such as bars, shebeens, nightclubs and markets.

He added that law enforcement organs will make sure these measures are enforced.

The Oshikango, Katwitwi, Wenela, Buitepos, Ariamsvlei, Noordoewer, Luderitz and Walvis Bay ports of entry have been closed for passengers.

Parliament will also be suspended for 21 days starting tomorrow until 14 April 2020. Private health service providers must inform the ministry of health immediately upon identifying a suspected case.

“Private health service providers must inform the Ministry of Health and Social Services immediately upon identifying a suspected case and submit all results to the ministry, whether positive or negative,” the minister noted.

Namibia has tested more than 26 people for Covid-19, with seven positive results.

National coordinator of the coronavirus outbreak in Namibia Bernhardt Haufiku said Namibia is now facing a new, formidable enemy and the rule of engagement needs to change. He said the committee has started further consultations because of the economic impacts apart from the loss of lives.

“However, on a balance of scale, we take lives more seriously than anything else. Depending on how the situation unfolds, the review mechanisms are in place by the technical teams to determine whether cases are increasing or decreasing. If cases are going down, we may consider proposing removing some conditions but if they are getting worse, we need to prepare for the worst,” he said.

He said the lockdown would not block people entering Windhoek from Rehoboth and Okahandja because they are essentially part of Khomas, and there are a number of people who work in Windhoek, coming from those towns.

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