by OKERI NGUTJINAZO, TAATI NIILENGE, YOKANY OLIVEIRA and VICTORIA WOLF
THE government has decided not to extend the state of emergency which was implemented six months ago to curb the impact of the novel coronavirus.
The state of emergency lapsed last night.
President Hage Geingob yesterday said to manage the pandemic under the Covid-19 state of emergency, the Cabinet adopted five levels of restriction, ranging from a full lockdown of social and economic activities under stage 1, to more moderate and gradually relaxed precautionary measures under stages 2, 3 and 4.
Stage 5 had envisaged ‘a new normal’ under which the country could look forward to life resuming to some form of normalcy.
Geingob said the Cabinet had extensive discussions to consider the expiry of the state of emergency, and to determine appropriate measures to put in place beyond 17 September.
Moving forward, the president said the government would monitor the situation for 14 days to determine the way forward. When warranted, risk-appropriate measures would be introduced.
From today, new directives will be issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Services in terms of the provisions of the Public and Environmental Act.
“The government’s priority to protect Namibian lives in a sustainable manner means preserving the health of Namibians while mitigating the broader social and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“While we have observed positive outcomes from the response measures on public health, such as the declining rate of infection, however, our economy, income and job security have been adversely affected as we implemented these necessary measures. Yes, the virus is deadly, however, we are aware that poverty also kills,” Geingob said.
The president said the government continually weighed the risk of widespread community transmission against the gains of restricted movement to curb the spread of the virus.
He further said scientific evidence has also shown that the cost of no action would have been far greater.
“I can confidently state that the regulations introduced under the state of emergency have, up to this point, averted widespread community transmission in our country,” he said.
Geingob noted that the average number of confirmed daily new cases has continued to decrease from 317 cases reported on 23 August to 167 cases reported on 12 September.
On Wednesday, the country recorded a low of only 63 new cases.
“This represents a further 30% reduction in daily new infections countrywide over the last 7 days,” he said.
Geingob said the possibility of a second wave of infection remains real.
“Now is the time to exercise maximum personal responsibility and vigilance,” he said.
Minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula said out of the N$727 million the government allocated to the fight against Covid-19, N$639 million (88%) has been used towards the recruitment of additional human resources for health, the procurement of medical supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment, and pharmaceuticals, the construction of isolation facilities, and the renovation of existing health facilities.
Shangula said under the ‘new normal’, intensified compliance with public health measures will be emphasised.
He said the government will continue to roll out expanded targeted testing and will pursue the strategy of source reduction.
Psychosocial support to healthcare workers and affected families would also be enhanced, he said.
REBUILDING THE ECONOMY
Labour expert Herbert Jauch yesterday said the end of the state of emergency does not mean that the economy will return to the pre-Covid ‘normality’.
“… mass unemployment and widespread suffering will continue,” he said.
Jauch’s proposal is to rebuild a very different economy along the principals of building a localised green economy.
“Instead of relying on foreign mass tourism, we should move towards local processing in a systematic manner,” he said.
Jauch said another solution to rebuild the economy is through the systematic redistribution of wealth to guarantee a basic livelihood for all.
“This can be done through the prevention of illicit financial outflows, a comprehensive taxation on all natural resources and the introduction of a universal basic income grant (BIG),” he said.
Walvis Bay residents fear the town could become a ghost town, as more businesses are closing after six months of being locked down.
Johnny Doëseb, president of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Walvis Bay branch, says there is a need for serious strategic engagements on the revival of the town’s economy.
“Governments of other countries have been subsidising businesses. In our case, there are no subsidies or stimulus packages for businesses . . . The government and the private sector must now engage in discussions to see how businesses can be stimulated,” he said.
Doëseb said it has become challenging for businesses to pay off their bank loans, adding that the hospitality and tourism sectors are especially severely affected and may only recover in 2021.
Gideon Ndilipunye (22), who owns a car-washing business, said the end of restrictions means he will have more business.
“My carwash customers usually call me after work, and the curfew really hurt my business. Now I can operate at night like normal,” he says.
Namibia University of Science and Technology student Leonard Shipyo (21) says the lifting of restrictions will not affect him greatly as he has had face-to-face classes since June as a health faculty student.
“I study emergency medical services and it’s compulsory for us to have practicals. We’ve been doing that since June, but still wearing masks, sanitising and keeping a social distance. I still think it’s good that the state of emergency is done,” he said.
Okuryangava resident Hansel Shumbili (23) said the move will be good for the country’s economy.
“Money will circulate again and this will help the country,” he said.