Namibia has become the first Southern African Development Community (SADC) country to stop granting visas to Chinese nationals as a precautionary measure due to the coronavirus outbreak that has become a global health emergency with the death rate increasing daily.
The decision was made known by the Namibian Ambassador to China Elia Kaiyamo who on Twitter on Sunday said, "As from now our mission in China will not issue visas to Chinese national until further notice. Exceptional case like this diplomat maybe considered."
As of yesterday, three African countries reported that they were investigating suspected cases of coronavirus. Kenya, Ethiopia and Botswana reported three, four, five cases respectively. The only other African country to declare a suspected case negative is Ivory Coast.
Health executive director Ben Nangombe yesterday said no coronavirus has been detected and the ministry is on high alert and have put in place measures to detect the spread of the coronavirus at ports of entry.
He said the health ministry has sent protective clothing to ports of the country and a meeting was to be held yesterday with all stakeholders to sensitize them about the seriousness of the virus.
Chinese Ambassador to Namibia Zhang Yiming last week confirmed that a "few" Chinese nationals have returned to Namibia after the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, but appealed to Namibians to remain calm, reaffirming his country's commitment to stop the virus from spreading.
"I must admit we have a very few Chinese nationals who arrived in the country a few days ago - our embassy is busy contacting each one of them, we are demanding all of them to stay at home, isolate themselves, strictly at home for 14 days and report to our embassy every day. We will make sure that no one carries this virus to this country," said Zhang while addressing the media in Windhoek on Friday.
He called on Namibians and the international community for support, saying that it is only through such support that China will be able to tackle the outbreak of the virus.
"We are a global village, we should support each other, either materially or emotionally," Zhang said. He said there are currently an estimated 6 000 Chinese nationals living in Namibia with the majority still in China celebrating the Chinese New Year, which is on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar.
"We have advised those who are still in China to stay there up until the virus is contained. China is serious in containing the virus, we don't want the virus to spread to other continents," asserted the Chinese ambassador.
He also confirmed that no Namibians in China are affected by the virus.
Zhang also advised Namibia against the evacuation of its about 400 students in Wuhan, saying that it is very dangerous at the moment to evacuate anyone from Wuhan that has been isolated from the rest of the world.
US Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson last week during a courtesy call to President Hage Geingob at State House said her office is prepared to work with health authorities to respond to any outbreak of the virus.
Coronavirus is part of a vast family of viruses that includes those that cause the common flu, but also Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The first symptoms are high fevers and cough, which can worsen to the extent of causing pneumonia. The epicenter of the virus is the city of Wuhan, China, where it has claimed several lives. At least 362 people have died from this disease and 17 300 cases have been confirmed.