by Okeri Ngutjinazo
THE Social Security Commission has placed 13 of its workers under self-quarantine after they were in contact with an employee who recently travelled on the same flight with Namibia’s two confirmed coronavirus cases.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula on Saturday announced the country’s first confirmed coronavirus cases after a Romanian couple who arrived in the country last Wednesday was confirmed to be carrying the coronavirus.
The results were received on Friday evening. Shangula said the couple came from Madrid, Spain, via Doha, Qatar, before coming to Namibia through the Hosea Kutako International Airport.
Social Security Commission (SSC) senior communications manager Unomengi Kauapirura confirmed the development to The Namibian yesterday, saying the employee was tested on Tuesday and they are waiting for the results.
She further said the employee is fine and is not showing any symptoms of infection. In an email sent to staff on Monday, Kauapirura referred to the staff members who were sent home as cases of “possible exposure”, because they had not exhibited any symptoms related to the virus so far, but were sent home as a preventative measure.
“At this point, we are unable to reveal the names of our colleagues who have been sent home due to this ‘possible’ exposure. Their privacy must be protected against any stigmatisation that could result from this,” she said, adding that they may all not show any of the symptoms after the prescribed short period under quarantine.
She indicated that the environment in which the employees might have become exposed to the virus was not at any of the SSC’s offices.
“One staff member was reportedly on the same flight to Windhoek with the couple who tested positive for coronavirus last week. Sending our colleagues home was then necessitated by the need to keep the SSC work environment free of the coronavirus infiltration,” she said.
The email sent to the affected staff members further explained that their quarantine does not mean they are on leave or can go outside.
“You need to isolate yourself, wash your hands constantly for 20 seconds or longer with soap or disinfectant, do not touch any surfaces where other people could have coughed or sneezed, ” the email read.
The staff members were also advised to wear masks or cover their faces when dealing with other people, especially if they are pregnant, older than 70, have naturally weak lungs, asthma or if they are prone to bronchitis and pneumonia every time they get the common flu.
“IT (information technology) personnel will establish whether you need laptops and 3G internet connection devices and they will deliver it at home as soon as they have managed to set it up correctly for you,” the staff were told.
SSC has also set up an emergency task force and suspended all official travel with immediate effect for a period of 30 days. In addition, if an employee travels for personal reasons outside Namibia, they are required to disclose to their supervisor the countries they visited and are required to take the precautionary measures during travel.
Meanwhile, president Hage Geingob on Tuesday declared coronavirus as a state of emergency throughout Namibia with stricter directives put in place.
All public gatherings of more than 50 people were suspended while the finance ministry, in conjunction with the Bank of Namibia, was instructed to assess the impact Covid-19 has had on the local economy.