by Arlana Shikongo

Photo: Henry van Rooi

While Namibia was still determined to facilitate the ‘special occasion’ of celebrating the 30th anniversary of its independence, Geingob made it clear that no large public gatherings should be hosted for the next 30 days.

“The health of Namibians is the first priority. Appropriate precautionary measures must be taken,” Geingob said during a media briefing on Saturday.

“The Namibian government is suspending inbound and outbound travel to and from Qatar, Ethiopia and Germany with immediate effect for a period of 30 days. All big gatherings are suspended for a period of 30 days,” he added.

Asked to clarify what constitutes a big gathering, presidential spokesper- son Alfredo Hengari said while the Presidency does not have a figure for what constitutes a large public gathering, any meeting of a large number of people should be considered as such.

“Large public gatherings imply stadiums, music shows, concerts, church gatherings, demonstrations, schools and university lectures. These are all large congregations of people.

“We don’t have a figure as yet, but these are precautionary measures. So,

that implies that all types of gatherings where people meet in large numbers must be avoided,” he said.

Hengari emphasised that the measures Geingob announced are preventive and should be observed with vigilance.

“We have to avoid all these types of gatherings where people come in close contact with each other. The president has emphasised clearly that the health of Namibians is his first priority in fighting what is obviously a global pandemic,” he said.

Adding to this, health minister Kalumbi Shangula explained that the concern with large gatherings is that if a transmission were to occur in that setting, it would be difficult to manage.

Shangula also said while Namibians are encouraged to take extra measures to protect themselves, the panic buying of surgical masks is not an appropriate reaction.

“Personal hygiene and washing hands are important, but not the wearing of masks. It doesn’t help,” he said. “Masks protect transmission from you [the person wearing the mask] to another person, but it doesn’t protect someone from contracting the virus,” he said.

The Namibian also probed the minister for an explanation on why the samples of the Romanian couple that tested positive

for the virus were sent to South Africa for testing.

Shangula explained that the couple went to a private practice that did their testing through PathCare and not through the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP), which can do the testing locally.

“The private doctor sent the specimens to a PathCare lab. The PathCare lab in Namibia does not do testing, so they had to send it to PathCare in SouthAfrica.

“But we’ve the capacity and we’ve informed private doctors that we have NIP,

which can do the work locally, which will be fast, and we’re not charging anybody.”

Furthermore, Shangula commented on the N$1 100 fee being charged by Path- Care for coronavirus testing, urging citizens to make use of the local services that are available for free instead.

“If you go to a private lab, I heard people complaining about those charges. But it’s not necessary. Just come to NIP, they will not charge you,” he said.

The ministry of health’s

executive director, Ben Nangombe told Nampa yesterday that plans are also underway to call in retired and unemployed health professionals in the fight to curb COVID-19 from spreading.

Nangombe said this after the Namibia Nurses Union (Nanu) called on the government to consider and engage unemployed nurses during the fight to suppress COVID-19 cases.

In an interview with Nampa yesterday, Nangombe said the plan was already in motion to bring

all health professionals on board, even before the two confirmed cases in the last few days.

GROWING PANIC

The Namibian has observed increased caution among various groups since the president’s directive was announced on Saturday.

An employee at the Ster-Kinekor cinema in Windhoek’s Maerua Mall on Saturday said the cinema had about half the attendance compared to the day before. The employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, also said of the few people who came, some had surgical masks and gloves on, while others washed their hands frequently.

Furthermore, an employee of the HiFi Corporation shop in Maerua Mall said staff would most likely be wearing gloves from today.

The Namibian also observed some customers in grocery stores such as Checkers and Spar wearing surgical masks.

Furthermore, many stores and pharmacies had no surgical masks, and shelves that usually stock hand sanitisers were empty.

Moses Apollus, a church leader of the Bethel Lutheran church in Windhoek, also informed The Namibian that while Sun- day morning’s church service went ahead as usual, fewer people attended.

Apollus said he believed the church was aware of the president’s directive, however, they had not informed the congregation of what the plan was for the next 30 days.

“They have not mentioned anything yet. They are maybe waiting for instructions from the head office before they make a decision,” he said.

On the political front, Christian Democratic Voice (CDV) president Gotthard Kandume called for the lockdown of educational institutions, workplaces and churches amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Schools and churches should be closed. Even workplaces for now. It will be safe to stay at our houses rather than being in public,” Kandume said.

He added that while the health of Namibians mat- ters the most, it is also time citizens come together and seek God.

“This is the time to seek God. We must come closer to God and introspect our- selves,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation, common signs of infection include respiratory symp- toms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

– Additional reporting by Nampa

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