Namibia: Anxiety Over Lockdown As Confusion Clouds Directives

MISCOMMUNICATION, vague directives and contradicting messages have triggered panic waves among Namibians, as the country ponders the implications of the looming partial lockdown in some regions.

The timeline for the start of lockdown has left many people confused and in a state of panic throughout the country.

President Hage Geingob on Wednesday announced strict measures to curtail the further spread of the coronavirus in the country after seven cases of Covid-19 were confirmed. These measures included a lockdown of the Khomas and Erongo regions for 21 days starting at the end of Friday and not the end of Thursday as initially stated, until 16 April 2020.

The seemingly unclear directives led to returning Namibians being stuck at points of entry after they were denied entry into the country by immigration officials yesterday.

A group of people who flew into the country from South Africa had to endure the better part of the afternoon detained at the Hosea Kutako International Airport.

The Namibian was informed that some people who came to meet their relatives at the airport had to wait from 14h00 when the plane landed until the late evening.

The delay, according to sources, caused some commotion as the travellers banged on the door demanding to be released while some managed to escape from the room.

They were, however, caught and returned to the detention room. The group was only released after 19h00, following the intervention of Dr Bernhard Haufiku, the national coordinating committee chairperson on Covid-19 in Namibia.

Haufiku told The Namibian that only passengers from Covid-19-hit Europe will be quarantined, while those arriving from South Africa have only been advised to self-quarantine and watch out for coronavirus symptoms and report such if experienced.

This was in line with the health ministry's directive that all returning Namibians and permanent residents coming from high-risk countries be subjected to mandatory supervised quarantine for 14 days, at their own cost.

"There was a misinterpretation of the health ministry's directive blocking passengers' entry into the country," he said.

In the far north-east, returning students from Zimbabwe spent hours under uncertainty stranded in no-man's-land between Zambia's Sesheke and Namibia's Wenela border posts for similar reasons.

Although they were cleared at the Zambian side for departure, the group who travelled in one bus, were denied entry into Namibia on arrival at the Wenela border post.

Information on the group was vague, but The Namibian understands that the bus had travelled from Zimbabwe, only to be blocked at the Wenela border post. They were still to be allowed in by the time of going to print.

IMPLICATION OF LOCKDOWN

Another point of confusion was the practical application of some of the directives that are part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

These measures were announced by health minister Kalumbi Shangula, following president Hage Geingob's announcement of a lockdown of the Khomas and Erongo regions.

Geingob, during the announcement of the lockdown, said the extraordinary measures were adopted with the purpose of protecting the health, security and safety of the Namibian people, urging all Namibians to cooperate with the authorities and to remain calm, in order to ensure that public order is not compromised.

The explanation on who qualifies to work from home for the specified 14 days, as per the directive, was, however, missing from the announcement.

Another cause for confusion appeared to be the definition of what types of jobs are essential services. In some quarters, it was also not clear if the lockdown in the two regions meant that people staying at home will be permitted movement within the regions under lockdown.

Haufiku told journalists at the airport that more clarity will be provided to the public in due course, as the various stakeholders are still setting modalities into motion on the partial lockdown.

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