by Charmaine Ngatjiheue and Ester Mbathera
Justice minister Yvonne Dausab has called on the public to refrain from stigmatising lorry drivers and people from the Erongo region.
Speaking at a Covid-19 situation update at State House in Windhoek on Monday, Dausab said the public needs to learn that the country finds itself in the current situation and it should be dealt with as a collective.
“Members of the public should not stigmatise people from Walvis Bay and truck drivers, especially because of the situation we find ourselves in. To stigmatise or discriminate against people because of the situation in which they find themselves is not appropriate. We are all here to contain the further spread of the virus and the measures that the government is taking is to combat, prevent and control,” she said.
She further said when the measures aimed at restricting the spread of the novel coronavirus are relaxed, an additional burden is placed on the public and they are expected to adhere to the standard health regulations. She stressed that the consistent wearing of masks and keeping a distance of one metre between people should be adhered to. She added that various businesses and institutions need to keep a visitors register, including at funerals and weddings.
“When you invite people to come to your house for a party, funeral or wedding, the expectation is that you will have a register so the details of the people are noted down. If any Covid-19 related matter happens at that particular venue, the health officials and law enforcement must be able to get that information from you,” she said.
She also addressed the issue of fake news, saying it remains a criminally punishable offence under the Covid-19 regulations.
People on social media platforms have been blaming the escalating Covid-19 cases at Walvis Bay on the lorry driver who was the first positive case for the virus at the harbour town a month ago.
The driver is still in isolation because the virus is still active in his body.
This morning in an interview with The Namibian, the truck driver said he is having an emotional breakdown, and the stigmatisation has affected him and his family.
“I am hurt by the public’s comments accusing me of bringing corona to Walvis Bay. Now a 10-year-old child is dragged into this whole mess. I don’t even have a 10-year-old daughter and my wife is at the village. Even the lady who is case 32 that people say I cheated, have they got that information from her or does she even know me?” said the driver, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Reverend Lukas Katenda, the acting principal at the Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS), added that the nation needs psychosocial support more than ever because it is in a state of panic and depression due to Covid-19 preventative measures.
“The national overreaction to this shocking news is obviously overwhelming to a person who is already battling Covid-19 and also his close family members. But this came about as a result of poor eloquence and counselling skills on those who communicate to the nation during this time.”
According to Katenda the single sentence “no need to panic” that the government has been saying to the people is not enough.
“The masses need psychosocial support promoting understanding, care, assertiveness and support to one another during this time of great difficulty and panic,” said Katenda.