Namibia buckles under coronavirus crisis

By Andreas Thomas

President Hage Geingob
President Hage Geingob

Windhoek – President Hage Geingob has called on Namibians to “brace themselves for bad times” ahead following recent spikes in the infections of the coronavirus in the country.

While addressing the media in the capital, Geingob expressed that the coronavirus pandemic might not be defeated within a year.

He described the pandemic as new normal that “we must get used to this”.

Namibia is edging closer to becoming one of the worst affected nations in the southern African region by the coronavirus pandemic.

The country has recorded 303 new cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days.

The recent spikes in new infections have raised fears that the worst is yet to come.

As of Monday, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases stands at 485.

And the harbour town of Walvis Bay in the west-central along the Atlantic coast in Erongo region has become the epicentre of the pandemic.

Of the total number of cases recorded so far, 436 are from the Erongo region, with 391 specifically recorded in Walvis Bay.

On Monday morning, health authorities confirmed 73 new cases of infection, of which 72 are from Walvis and one from the Khomas region.

The town is home to the country’s biggest port and an important centre of the fishing industry.

To prevent the further spread of the pandemic, President Geingob announced additional restriction measures for the coastal towns of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis.

They were placed under a special dispensation during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

While the rest of the country has progressed to Stage 4 of the lockdown, the three towns will remain in Stage 3 of state of emergency with stringent travelling measures.

“We are fully aware that restrictions on the movement of people and the lockdowns necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic have had an adverse effect on our economy.

However, Namibia’s incidence curve for COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in recent weeks. Flattening this sharp rise, will now more than ever, require the Government to remain firm and responsive to the changing realities on the ground” said the head of state.

Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said the movement of people in and out of the affected areas is prohibited except essential services. Shangula said the three coastal towns will be on lockdown until August 23, 2020.

The health minister stressed that travel is not permitted and will be restricted only to the supply of essential and critical supply of goods and services as defined in the State of emergency regulations.

He added that all persons leaving and entering the restricted local authority areas will be recorded in a registry at the entry and exit points.

The public gathering is still restricted to 10 people. Schools in the affected areas will also remain closed. Namibia has so far recorded 25 recoveries with no COVID-19 related fatality.

Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi revealed that Namibia is losing around N$2 billion weekly due to expansive measures necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. He said the government is faced with the delicate act of saving lives and allowing certain economic activities to livelihoods.

The government is working with the tourism and hospitality industry on tourism revival initiative to open the borders to a limited number of foreign tourists.

“Work to finalize preparations for the announced tourism revival Initiative is ongoing, further modalities will be communicated. We want to be meticulous in the execution of this initiative, so as to safeguard our public health gains in the other regions of the country and deliver on our intended objective of reviving the Tourism and Hospitality sectors,” President Geingob aid.

The tourism sector that employs over 100 000 people are one of the worst affected economic sectors by the coronavirus crisis.

Namibia plans to open its borders during Stage 5 at the end of August 2020.

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