Namibia: Govt Urged to Provide for the Poor... Health Minister Confirms Three New Covid-19 Cases

30 March 2020

Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) executive director Graham Hopwood yesterday said government needs to initiate an economic relief package to shield the poor during the far-reaching coronavirus crisis.

Minister of health Kalumbi Dr Shangula yesterday confirmed three more laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the country's tally of confirmed infections to a record of 11. The new cases involve two females: 35 and 33 years old, as well as a 69-year-old male.

There are still no known cases of local transmissions of the virus in Namibia and no deaths were recorded.

"Government needs to introduce a package of measures, including welfare assistance for the poorest and support for the private sector as soon as possible. The move to make water freely available in the informal settlements is a positive step by local authorities," Hopwood told New Era yesterday.

Similar sentiments were also shared by political commentator Ndumba Kamanya, who said for the national lockdown to be fully effective, government needs to come up with an economic plan to shield the poor, especially in the informal settlements.

"Locking down the Khomas and Erongo regions is not that effective. We need to lock the whole country. But also, what's lacking is an economic plan. You can't just lock the country or region without an economic plan," Kamanya said.

On a positive side, Hopwood said it was good that government widely circulated the Gazette on Saturday, which set out the regulations for the lockdown.

"It is important that government is seen to be acting within the law, especially in these extraordinary times," he said.

Also, he said government urgently needs to appoint a capable communications team, as, at the moment, some contradictory and confusing messages are being released.

"An example would be the press release of yesterday on 11 confirmed cases, which appeared to be released unofficially to only parts of the media," he said.

He further urged Namibians to play their part by staying at home as much as possible and not to spread fake news and false information on the pandemic.

"Reliable and regular communications from government in this regard will help to counter the false reports," he said.

Kamanya also lamented the poor communications by the health officials saying that there need to better on communication to cub on misinformation going on social media.

"The testing process also seems too relaxing. That is the question of whether we are testing everybody and doing it effectively."

Meanwhile, chaos erupted at various City of Windhoek offices Saturday morning, when hundreds of residents from informal settlements showed up to collect free prepaid water tokens and have their disconnected water reconnected.

This follows a directive from the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development to all local authorities and municipalities to reconnect the water of all those disconnected due to non-payment, to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Residents at the Wanaheda City of Windhoek offices expressed: "The President declared a lockdown while we do not have water, and here we are on top of each other; how do they want to stop the spread of corona if we have no water and now we are congested like this?

They complained that the registration process, which started on Wednesday, was done at short notice, given the population in the informal settlements.

"Now, we are fighting in queues while they informed us to keep a distance from one another," they said.

When Nampa visited the Ombili, Katutura Customer Care Centre and Namic offices, several hundred residents had assembled at these points to recharge their water vouchers, which goes against the social distancing being currently promoted by health officials to fight the Covid-19.

Windhoek mayor Fransina Kahungu said the situation is out of control and her office is consulting to have

the taps in all informal settlements open.

"People are not following the directive from the government in terms of social distancing; this chaos cannot work. The only way is for the taps to be opened completely and people will not have to use prepaid tokens," she noted.

She further said the municipality is setting up water tanks at various points in the informal settlement to provide free water for the residents.

Caption (Pic: lockdown.jpg): Panic buying... Since government enforced a lockdown, which started at midnight on Friday, Windhoek residents have been flocking to shops to bulk buy essential goods. Pictured here is a large group of shoppers at Namica in Okuryangava. Police had to be called to control the crowds, as they became unruly due to shop owners only allowing 10 customers at a time to ensure there is social distancing. The same scene occurred at municipality offices as residents rushed to collect free water tokens.

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