Namibia: Corona Emergency Over ... Geingob Warns Country Not Out of the Woods Yet

Namibian President Hage Geingob addressing a Covid-19 media briefing.
18 September 2020

Despite ending the state of emergency, declared over the new novel coronavirus crisis, President Hage Geingob yesterday warned it was too early to claim the victory of a decline.

"The possibility of a second wave of infections remains real and is a risk that we must manage proactively. We are not out of the woods yet and not by a long shot. Now is the time to exercise maximum personal responsibility and vigilance," Geingob said in his address to the nation.

The lifting of the state of emergency means an end to the travel restrictions for the local authorities of Windhoek, Rehoboth and Okahandja, as well as the night curfew that was imposed countrywide for about three weeks as Namibia moves to stage four under the "new normal". Businesses such as shebeens, bars and bottle stores that have been selling alcohol on takeaway basis will now also be allowed to trade during normal hours. Contact sport, gambling houses and casinos will also be permitted to operate, subject to health measures but with a deadline of 22h00.

Public gatherings remain restricted at a maximum of 50 people, while social distancing and wearing of masks are mandatory.

The current public transport status quo also remains in place.

The country also opened its airports and land borders to allow for domestic, regional and international travel.

President Geingob cautioned Namibians to take personal responsibility to ensure the spread of the virus does not spiral out of control.

"When making plans for yourself, family, business, event or congregation, we urge you to consider this reality for everyone's benefit," he said.

"The coronavirus pandemic is a global tragedy on a scale that the world has not experienced in a long time. It has affected each and every one of our lives in ways we could not have imagined or prepared for. In a space of a few months, we have been called upon to introspect and reach into the deepest parts of our psyches to summon the resolve to persevere, the strength to endure and the courage to move forward with hope, faith and dignity. I am confident that through this challenging experience, we have developed a greater understanding of just how intricately connected our lives are."

Geingob said government would monitor the situation for 14 days and determine the way forward under a new dispensation.

He stated the regulations introduced under the state of emergency have, up to this point, averted widespread community transmissions in the country.

On 17 March, Geingob, in consultation with Cabinet, declared a state of emergency in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that has to date claimed up to 108 lives, while the country has over 10 000 confirmed cases.

The state of emergency was extended for six months by parliament and lapsed at midnight.

Geingob said the average number of confirmed daily new cases continues on a downward trend, from 317 cases reported on 23 August and 167 cases reported on 12 September - and on Wednesday (16 September), Namibia recorded a low of only 63 new cases.

This represents a further 30% reduction in daily new infections countrywide over the last seven days.

Walvis Bay, once the epicentre, recorded - at peak - 102 cases on 7 August 2020.

Yesterday, only three new cases at Walvis Bay were reported, while Windhoek, which has become the epicentre, reported 62 new cases.

He said this is indicative that measures to suppress the spread have worked, as testing and contact tracing have not been relaxed; they remain constant.

The President said while Namibia has observed positive outcomes from the response measures on public health, such as the declining rates of infection, the economy, income and job security have been adversely affected as the government implemented these necessary measures.

"Yes, the virus is deadly, however, we are aware that poverty also kills.

It is this understanding that has informed the government's response, which continually weighed the risk of widespread community transmission against the gains of restricted movement to curb the spread of the disease within our communities."

- anakale@nepc.com.na

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