Namibia: Hefty Fines for New Regulations Up to Officers

22 September 2020

NAMIBIANS caught contravening the yet-to-be-announced new Covid-19 regulations to be set by the health ministry could face fines of up to N$100 000 or no more than 10 years in prison.

This is detailed in the Public and Environment Health Act, which will now be used to guide Covid-19 regulations in the country, following the lapse of the state of emergency last week.

Justice minister Yvonne Dausab last week explained that Namibia has at least two existing legislative frameworks that can be used in situations relating to a pandemic, namely the aforementioned Public and Environment Health Act and the Public Health Act.

According to the Public and Environment Health Act, "For the purposes of this act, unless otherwise indicated, plague, cholera, epidemic influenza, diarrhoea with blood (dysentery), malaria, measles, meningitis, poliomyelitis (acute flaccid paralysis), schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, viral hemorrhagic fever, yellow fever, emerging pandemic influenza disease e.g. avian flu, Sars and swine flu (H1N1), anthrax, smallpox, pneumonic plague, ebola, viral haermorrhagic fever, dengue fever and rift valley fever are considered to be formidable epidemic diseases."

Furthermore, the act states that a person who fails to comply with the gazetted regulations would be committing an offence, which could attract a fine not exceeding N$100 000 or imprisonment for no more than 10 years; or both.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, health minister Kalumbi Shangula said the relevant issue of the Gazette would be made available to the public by Monday evening [yesterday or Tuesday [today], at the latest.

When asked to give more specific figures for the fines and sentences for those found in contravention of the gazette, Shangula said the amounts provided in the Public and Environment Health Act are sufficient.

"It leaves enough room. It would be up to the officer's discretion to say if it will be a N$10 fine or if it will be a N$100 fine," the minister said.

During the state of emergency, contravening lockdown regulations carried a N$2 000 fine or up to six months in prison, or both.

President Hage Geingob last week said the government would monitor the situation for 14 days to determine the way forward.

"When warranted, risk-appropriate measures will be introduced. As from 18 September 2020, new directives will be issued by the minister of health, in terms of the provisions of the Public and Environmental Act," Geingob said.

The president noted that the six-month state of emergency period was imperative to avert widespread achievement, however, he also considered the fact that this period drastically affected the economy.

"While we have observed positive outcomes from the response measures on public health, such as the declining rates of infection, our economy, income and job security have been adversely affected as we implemented these necessary measures.

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

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