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Namibia Coronavirus Update |Coronavirus-COVID-19 Updates in Namibia

Nations across the world have imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Here, the current list of countries and territories limiting entry.

On March 24, Namibia’s health minister said that travel into Namibia from all countries was banned for a 30-day period. Citizens and permanent residents are also not allowed to leave the country. Citizens and permanent residents would only be admitted into the country “if their mission is critical to national interest,” and anyone returning from abroad must observe mandatory supervised quarantine for 14 days. Effective March 18, American travelers were denied entry to the country.

The Namibian tourism industry, adversely affected by COVID-19 pandemic, is looking at the domestic market to revive.

Tourism activities came to a halt after the Namibian president declared a state of emergency and subsequent lockdown while the national parks closed between April 17 and May 5 as a result.

The Namibian government reopened parks and other leisure business activities in stages two and three of the country’s state of emergency.

Romeo Muyunda, public relations officer in the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, said the move is geared towards promoting domestic tourism.

“During the lockdown period, clientele and business declined. We are now encouraging locals to support the tourism sector,” he said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, tourism and hospitality establishments are offering incentives to locals.

Namibia Wildlife Resorts is running special to draw more locals to visit diverse establishments and nature parks, according to Mufaro Nesongano, its manager for corporate communications and online media.

“Since the international visitors are not coming to Namibia due to travel restrictions, local tourism is significant. Hence, it is imperative to grow it, otherwise we end up closing shop,” Nesongano said.

Namibia was a huge market for international tourists, receiving an average of 1.5 million tourist visitors annually, according to the 2018 Tourist Statistical Report. However, restrictions on international travel are a bottleneck to the sector.

Moreover, local enterprises have also united in an online campaign to attract locals to support tourism.

Nrupesh Soni, who runs a tourism establishment, said that players in the sector embarked on an online campaign dubbed “local is lekker” (local is good), which is focused on locals travelling within Namibia.

Through various online platforms, local accommodation establishments and tourism enterprises showcase their exclusive offers to the Namibian community.

“The aim is to enable facilities and ventures to earn an income. To encourage people to participate in domestic tourism to boost trade and commercial exchange by offering special prices and packages,” he said.

“More than 7,000 industry players are participating,” Soni said.

In the interim, besides incentives, the sector is exploring more ways on how to get back in business, according to Bernd Schneider, chairman of the Namibia Tourism Association.

“One alternative is for the broader tourism sector to look to gradually opening up. Also, we need to open up the economy in a controlled manner. We need to start operating, for people to earn an income,” he said.

These include stepping up the recommended sanitation, safety and hygiene measures as well as partnerships.

About 96.5 percent of businesses were adversely affected by COVID-19 and will continue to be affected in the coming months, according to results of a survey conducted by the Namibia Statistics Agency on the effect of COVID-19 on selected businesses in the country.

Namibia has recorded 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 17 recoveries as of Saturday morning, Africa CDC data showed.

The airport in the Namibian harbour town of Walvis Bay has closed after two residents tested positive for the coronavirus and the economic hub went into lockdown.

The airport would be closed for seven days, manager Chrizelda George told media on Sunday.

A third Walvis Bay resident, a colleague of one of the patients, has since tested positive, bringing the total infections nationwide to just 24 with no deaths.

Other airports in the country will still allow domestic flights as scheduled and for emergency evacuations.

Namibia’s flag carrier, Air Namibia, has also suspended all flights in and out of Walvis Bay until June 8.

Most of the desert nation in southwest Africa, which has received international praise after recording so few cases, will ease restrictions from Tuesday.

Air Namibia has announced that it will resume domestic flights from Wednesday, May 6, amid an easing of restrictions introduced due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Flights from Windhoek Eros Airport (ERS) will commence to Katima Mulilo, Lüderitz, Ondangwa, Oranjemund, and Walvis Bay. Pre-flight mandatory temperature testing will be introduced on all services, and passengers are required to wear faces masks throughout their flight. Regional and international services remain suspended.

On Thursday, April 30, Namibian President Hage Geingob announced that the country would begin to gradually reopen from Tuesday, May 5, entering the second stage of lockdown measures. Domestic travel between regions and within cities and towns will be allowed. Several businesses will be permitted to reopen, including shopping malls, retail stores, restaurants, hairdressers, and barbers; these businesses will be subject to health and hygiene measures.

Current lockdown measures restricting domestic travel and closing most nonessential businesses will remain in place through Monday, May 4. The purchase and sale of alcohol remain prohibited nationwide.

As of April 30, there have been 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. The further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and laboured breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travellers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travellers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travellers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.

Namibia’s President Dr. Hage G. Geingob (22 June 2020) announced that 13 of the 14 regions of Namibia will migrate from stage three to stage four of the country’s four-stage strategy to exit the coronavirus lockdown at midnight on 29 June 2020. The Erongo Region, which is currently in stage one lockdown, will migrate to stage three at midnight tonight, Monday 22 June 2020.
As of today, Namibia has a total of 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 28 new cases reported during the past 7-day period. Twenty-four out of the 28 newly reported cases originate from the Erongo Region.

The following measures will apply to all residents across Namibia, except for the Erongo Region:

  1. Namibia will migrate from stage three to stage four with Relaxed Precautions on 30 June to 17 September 2020 for an extended 10-week period.
  2. Points of entry will remain closed except for the transportation of imported goods. The government in collaboration with the Tourism and Hospitality sector will conduct a targeted International Tourism revival initiative between 15 July to 15 August 2020. This initiative will look to accommodate a limited number of tourists, who will be determined in consultation with the private sector, from a carefully selected low-risk market that has potential to contribute towards Namibia’s tourism sector that employs over 100,000 Namibians. Modalities for this initiative will be announced in coming weeks and this trial will inform and strengthen public sector preparations for the imminent reopening of Points of Entry under stage five.
  3. Travel related quarantine: As from 30 June 2020, all Namibians & Non-Namibians entering the country must submit to a COVID19 PCR test on arrival and mandatory, Government supervised Quarantine, at own cost. Only citizens who cannot afford to quarantine at their own cost (as will be defined in the Directives) can apply to be quarantined at a cost to Government.
  4. The size of public gatherings will increase to 250 people for social gatherings including weddings, funerals and religious gatherings. Members of the public must strictly adhere to the Health & Hygiene protocols.
  5. Education: The resumption of Pre-Primary (Grades Zero to 3) is hereby deferred for a period of two-weeks across all 14 regions, until Monday 06 July 2020. The Ministry of Education will provide an updated schedule to the public.
  6. The government will continue to strengthen public health response measures through Surveillance, Testing, Contact Tracing and Isolation of confirmed cases, and by intensifying public education.

The following measures will apply to all residents of the Erongo Region:

  1. The Erongo region will migrate from stage one to stage three at midnight tonight, Monday 22 June 2020 until midnight on Monday 06 July 2020, for an initial period of 14 days or one-incubation cycle.
  2. Travel between towns in the Erongo region and to the rest of the country, will be permitted, with exception of the Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis Local Authority Areas.
    Considering the linkages and movement of labour between the towns of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, travel between these Local Authority Areas will be permitted. However travel into and out of these Local Authority Areas to the rest of the country is highly discouraged and will be restricted to emergency situations only, as defined in the Regulations. Bearing in mind that the disease does not move by itself but through human carriers, all residents are strongly urged to avoid unnecessary travel during this period, and allow authorities to conduct the active case search at these towns, in an effort to determine the extent of spread of disease into the community.
  3. Essential service providers as defined in the Regulations and truck drivers will be permitted to travel into and out of the region on the basis of an authorized permit. To avoid local truck drivers mixing with cross-border truck drivers, the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Social Services are directed to identify separate Truck Ports and parking areas at Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis Local Authority Areas. Local truck drivers are to be escorted by law enforcement officials to and from their respective delivery destinations.
  4. Public gatherings at Erongo region will be restricted to 50 persons with exception of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund & Arandis Local Authority Areas, which will be restricted to gatherings of 10 persons. 4
  5. Education: Schools across the Erongo region that meet the ‘COVID-19 Compliance Standards’ may resume face-to-face instruction for Grade 11 and 12.
    For Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis Local Authority Areas, the resumption of Grades 11, 12, and Pre-Primary (Grades Zero to 3) remains suspended for the next 14 days. Face-to-face instruction will be determined pending observation of the unfolding situation in those towns.
  6. Vulnerable persons, in categories as defined, will be permitted to work from home at Erongo region subject to authorization issued by the Employer and upon presentation of a valid Medical Certificate. Old Age Homes should remain under isolation and caregivers should strictly adhere to the Health & Hygiene Protocols.

Namibia will ease a nationwide coronavirus-related lockdown to the lowest level in 13 of its 14 regions, with the strictest measures remaining in force in the area that includes the southwest African nation’s second-biggest city.

The relaxation, which comes into effect at the end of the month, allows for gatherings of as many as 250 people for weddings, funerals and religious services, President Hage Geingob told reporters Monday in the capital Windhoek. Attendance at schools remains voluntary, he said.

An undisclosed number of tourists “from a carefully selected market on the basis of its epidemiological profile” will be allowed into the country from Aug. 15, Geingob said. Liquor outlets, taverns and bars can operate under normal working hours, but alcohol sales are for takeaway only.

Erongo, which includes Walvis Bay, was placed under the strictest lockdown three weeks ago after reporting a spike in Covid-19 infections. Of the 63 recorded cases of the virus in Namibia, 42 are in the region.

THE Cabinet has approved a four-stage strategy for Namibia to exit its coronavirus lockdown.

The post-lockdown options envisaged by the government form part of decisions taken during a Cabinet meeting this week, and indicate that the country would partially reopen for business, but with continuing restrictions.

President Hage Geingob will introduce the four proposed strategies at a briefing scheduled for 15h00 today.

With 16 confirmed coronavirus infections reported in Namibia – and that figure unchanged since 5 April – the country is currently in stage one, which is the lockdown in which only activities in accordance with regulations announced earlier are allowed.

AFTER LOCKDOWN

Stage two is part of the post-lockdown strategies and entails allowing all economic activities where effective social distancing can be enforced.

The Cabinet has also decided that during this stage, restaurants and establishments preparing cooked food, including informal markets, should still continue to serve takeaway food only.

Temperature screening would be compulsory as people enter workplaces. Additionally, hand sanitisers should be made available at entrances of every workplace and sanitising before entering any workplace would be compulsory.

“Continuous awareness creation on hygiene practices to combat Covid-19 should be a responsibility of every employer; law enforcement agencies should undertake unannounced random checks at different places to ensure compliance with hygiene standards; social distancing must be maintained at all times,” the Cabinet decided.

FURTHER REGULATIONS

Moreover, people above 60 years and those with special health conditions should continue to practise teleworking for a few weeks, as the country observes the incidence of the virus.

Public gatherings would remain restricted to a maximum of 10 people and contact sports would not be allowed.

Face masks would be required when people leave home, including in supermarkets, and reusable masks would be distributed to all, with instructions on cleaning the masks.

Informal markets have been re-opened with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

FINAL STAGES

The Cabinet decided that in stage three, which includes all stage two activities, secondary schools and universities would resume face-to-face classes, public gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 20 people, and the general population will be encouraged to work or study from home where possible.

“Retail, hospitality (restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, etc.) and service sectors to re-open following social distancing guidelines; and the gradual opening of borders to selected countries in the region, based on regularly updated outbreak information and in collaboration with African Union, World Health Organisation and other coordinating agencies,” the Cabinet also noted.

Stage four would be “the new normal”, allowing all stage three activities while restrictions on public gatherings would be reconsidered based on the latest available information at that time.

Large gatherings such as sporting events, religious services, concerts and conferences would likely only be permitted once a vaccine for the novel coronavirus or effective treatment for Covid-19 is available.

However, borders would open internationally, resuming flight schedules for international air travel and tourism.

CHIEF executive officer of the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) Bisey Uirab today announced a 14-day stage1 lockdown of the company’s head office.

Bisey Uirab

The lockdown is effective from 22 June until 6 July.

“The decision comes after careful consideration of a possible risk of exposure as one of our employees who works at the head office resides at 77 on Independence that was reported as one of the places case number 33 visited,” Uirab said.

Meanwhile, FNB Swakopmund has also temporarily closed its doors for two days after reports of a close relative of a staff member testing positive for Covid-19.

The closure has been effective from today. In a media statement yesterday, the bank’s communications manager, Elzita Beukes, said the action is a necessary health and safety measure.

“As a proactive stance to eliminate any doubts and offer peace of mind to our staff, clients, stakeholders and communities, FNB Namibia has temporarily sent all Swakopmund branch staff home and closed the branch for Friday, 19 June and Saturday, 20 June, and has commissioned a full sanitisation of the branch premises over this period,” Beukes said.

She said the branch will reopen on Monday after being fully disinfected, and with a new staff complement. The branch staff members have been sent to self-isolate.

The Namibian government announced on Thursday, May 28, that the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions will be further eased from Tuesday, June 2. The move to level three of the country’s four-tier lockdown means that restaurants will be allowed to reopen for dine-in customers and schools can resume classes. Non-contact sports and gatherings of up to 50 people for ceremonies, religious services, and other events will also be permitted with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

However, ministers also announced that a level one lockdown has been reintroduced in the port town of Walvis Bay until at least June 8 after two residents tested positive for COVID-19. The town will be placed under strict movement restrictions during the enhanced lockdown, with businesses and schools closed and gatherings of more than ten people prohibited, and permits will be required to travel to other areas in Namibia. The local lockdown will enable authorities to conduct a thorough contact tracing and the testing regime in the town focused on the local fishing and road haulage industries.

Namibia’s borders and ports of entry remain closed as of Friday, May 29, with exceptions for freight operations. Flights to and from the country also remain suspended until at least June 30. Face masks are required to be worn in all public spaces and a distance of 1.5 m (5 ft) must be maintained from other persons.

As of May 29, health authorities have confirmed 23 COVID-19 cases and no associated deaths in the country. Further spread of the virus is expected in the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and laboured breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travellers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travellers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travellers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.

Namibia has decided not to lift the lockdown of the port town of Walvis Bay, to discourage the spread of community transmission.

The President Hage Geingob at a media brief on Monday said the stage 1 lockdown will be extended to the entire Erongo region for another 14 days from June 8 to 22.

Namibia moved to stage 3 of lockdown roughly a fortnight ago, but Walvis Bay was reverted to stage 1 because of the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

According to Geingob, the developments to extend the lockdown came as a result of the lack of adherence to regulations in Walvis Bay, which he said aggravates the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

To date, Namibia has recorded 31 COVID-19 cases with 16 recovery cases.

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Namibia, which has so far recorded no coronavirus deaths, said on Thursday it would within days further ease restrictions on social and economic activities.

Most of the desert nation in southwest Africa, which has received international praise after recording only 22 confirmed COVID-19 infections with 14 recoveries, will ease restrictions to level three of its four-level lockdown system from June 2.

However, the harbour town of Walvis Bay will revert to level one, the most restrictive, for seven days after two residents tested positive. The government has stepped up tracing of people who came into contact with those two.

President Hage Geingob urged public vigilance despite the easing of restrictions which will allow schools to resume face-to-face classes and restaurants to receive sit-down customers.

Non-contact sports and gatherings of up to 50 people at weddings, funerals and other events will be allowed.

But clubs, casinos and gambling houses will remain closed as they are considered high-risk areas while truck drivers arriving in Namibia will be screened, tested on arrival and quarantined for no less than 14 days.

Namibian borders will remain closed and a partial lockdown in force for a further two-and-a-half-week until May 4 as part of new strict measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Hage Geingob said on Tuesday.

The sparsely populated southwest African country of under 3 million people has 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with no report of new infections for the past week.

Several countries in the region have announced lockdowns.

Mining operations, which make up half of Namibia’s export revenue, have been suspended pending the lockdown. Informal trading and open markets will still be allowed to operate subject to strict hygiene, social distancing and limits to the number of people who can gather.

Namibian borders will remain closed and a partial lockdown in force for a further two-and-a-half weeks until May 4 as part of new strict measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Hage Geingob said on Tuesday.

The sparsely populated southwest African country of under 3 million people has 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with no report of new infections for the past week. Several countries in the region have announced lockdowns.

Mining operations, which make up half of Namibia’s export revenue, have been suspended pending the lockdown.

Informal trading and open markets will still be allowed to operate subject to strict hygiene, social distancing and limits to the number of people who can gather.

Geingob said in a televised address to the nation that the current lockdown, which took effect on March 27 and was due to come to an end this Thursday at midnight, has been extended to midnight on 4 May 2020.

“The pandemic we face today is unprecedented, but I am confident that by working collaboratively, we will respond effectively to minimize the spread of the virus … and restart our economic activities,” he said.

The Namibian government last week announced an 8.1 billion Namibian dollar ($478,000) economic stimulus package in a bid to minimize the impact of COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the new coronavirus.

President Hage Geingob of Namibia has admitted to breaching coronavirus regulations after holding a party during the lockdown. His party, Swapo, held its 60th anniversary on April 19 when Namibia was on lockdown and gatherings were prohibited. All his guests have since been fined.

Namibia’s President Hage Geingob on Thursday admitted to breaching coronavirus regulations last month by hosting a celebration to mark his party’s 60th anniversary and subsequently fining all guests.

The South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) birthday party took place in parliament on April 19, when Namibia was under lockdown and group gatherings were banned to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“We had a very important occasion of the 60th anniversary of SWAPO,” Geingob confessed on Thursday during a press conference on the country’s Covid-19 response.

“Although we were as little as ten leaders… we were found not on the right side of the regulations and law. We had to admit guilt and we were punished, we paid.”

The guests included vice-president Nangolo Mbumba, prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and SWAPO secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa

All have since been fined N$2 000 ($115).

Geingob raised controversy in March for inviting several African presidents to his swearing-in ceremony, prompting them to breach their own travel bans.

A small handful of leaders still attended the event, including Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Angolan counterpart Joao Lourenco.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi was forced to self-isolate for 14 days upon his return.

Geingob has also come under fire for making public appearances without a face mask.

The 78-year old president defended his behaviour on Thursday, claiming masks were only required in the workplace or for travel, shopping and outdoor exercise.

Namibia started gradually easing its nationwide lockdown on May 4.

The sparsely populated southern African county has recorded just 22 coronavirus cases to date, none of which have been fatal.

Namibia will be on a partial lockdown for 21 days until 16 April in an attempt to curtail the further spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The announcement by President Hage Geingob and Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula coincided with news of the seventh case of COVID-19 in the country. The country’s borders with South Africa, Angola and Botswana have been closed.

Namibian schools will be suspended again next week for the second time since the coronavirus pandemic put break in the country. Restrictions on public gatherings will be further tightened from 250-100 in the midst of surge events, said President Hage Geingob.

In a Friday televised address, Geingob said the decision to suspend schools for 28 days from August 4 came after weighing the risks associated with the spread of the virus.

The measure affects the development of early childhood, pre-primary, primary, and secondary and first two grades.

According to Geingob, Namibia has 2,129 confirmed cases and 10 deaths. The country’s rate of regular new cases has put Namibia the fourth highest on the continent after South Africa, Eswatini and Gabon.

Customers would not be permitted to eat alcohol in bars and taverns, either. They’ll be allowed to just drink it at home.

Geingob eased regulations for foreign visitors, who are no longer subject to a compulsory 14-day quarantine upon arrival but are expected to apply a negative polymerase chain reaction ( PCR) check performed 72 hours prior to arrival. Nonetheless, they will be expected to stay seven days at their initial destination in the region. A check will take place during this time and if the outcome is negative, visitors will continue with their holiday.

Geingob said the goal was to improve tourism while maintaining public health. “Our experience has taught us that a complete lockdown of social and economic activities comes at an equally high premium and can’t be sustained for an extended period,” he said.

Primary schools in Namibia reopened under strict health guidelines on Tuesday after COVID-19 shutdowns with students wearing masks and conducting social distancing.

More than 300,000 learners from pre-primary schools to grade three returned to school on Tuesday, said Absalom Absalom, public relations officer in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.

Absalom said that schools reopened for formal teaching for the lower primary phase across the country except for the Erongo region.

The ministry has provided strict health guidelines for schools, including reducing the number of students in the class, observing social distancing and offering protective equipment, Absalom said.

“The ministry allocated 29.8 million Namibian dollars (1.7 million U.S. dollars) towards the purchasing of protective equipment,” he added.

In the capital Windhoek, teachers have disinfected Havana Primary School ahead of class resumption, school principal Andreas Katangolo said Tuesday.

“The school has also set up tippy taps to promote handwashing and general hygiene. Teachers and staff also check the temperature of learners.” Katangolo added.

At Van Ryn Primary School, informative and graphic posters written in a child-friendly language were placed at various spots on the school premises. All staff members and students at the Windhoek-based school also wore masks in adherence to safety and health measures.

So far, Namibia has recorded 539 coronavirus cases with 25 recoveries.

The Namibian government closed schools in March after it declared a state of emergency and carried out subsequent restrictions.

Namibian President Hage Geingob announced restrictions on travel and suspended the resumption of schools in the Erongo region amid rising cases of COVID-19.

Face-to-face classes for students of grades 11 and 12 resumed on June 3.

The government has eased lockdown restrictions in stage four, greenlighted the reopening of the country, including the education and economic sectors.

NAMIBIA-WINDHOEK-COVID-19-SCHOOL-RESUMPTION

As Namibia resumes face-to-face classes for senior secondary grades 11 and 12 this week after COVID-19 shut down, schools are practising safety hygiene measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The education ministry closed all schools in March this year after Namibian president declared a state of emergency and subsequent restrictions.

At Rocky Crest High School in Namibian capital Windhoek, teachers have set up a screening station. Each learner is screened and sanitized before entering the school premises.

Justine Klein, principal of Rocky Crest High School, said that this is done in compliance with the state health regulations.

“Details of the learners are recorded, including the overall wellbeing done based on a health questionnaire. We aim to ensure schools are a safe learning environment,” said Klein Thursday.

Schools are also checking the temperature of each learner and observing other measures.

The school principal of Augustine Secondary School in Windhoek, Rudolph Matengu, said that the school procured masks for all learners.

“All staff members at schools and learners wear masks to ensure compliance to health measures in place,” he said.

To promote sanitation and handwashing, some schools have set up tippy-taps, made out of three supporting metallic poles on which a reusable plastic bottle with water and soap hangs. Also, a foot lever for releasing water.

The schools have also minimized contact, observing social distancing by dividing learners into smaller groups, with the number of learners in a class drastically reduced.

Schools also inducted learners on the expected conduct, raising awareness about COVID-19, and provided social workers as well as life skills teachers to provide psychosocial support.

Meanwhile, according to Matengu, learners are also happy to see each other after two months of school closure, although they cannot hug and be close to each other.

Absalom Absalom, spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, said Thursday that more than 49,000 learners in grade 11 and 12 returned to school on June 3.

In the meantime, according to Absalom, schools that have not yet met hygiene and safety measures such as water provision, sanitation, screening provision and disinfection remain closed.

Namibia has recorded 25 cases of COVID-19, of which 16 cases have recovered.

SCHOOLS around the country are expected to reopen on 3 August for pupils to return to face-to-face education.

Education executive director Sanet Steenkamp made the announcement on Friday, adding schools are expected to open in Stage 3 of the state of emergency that was announced by President Hage Geingob. According to Steenkamp, all schools should follow guidelines to ensure the safety of children, teachers and staff members. Steenkamp said all staff members of the ministry, including teachers, hostel staff and cleaners, are expected to report for duty between today and 11 May. The government has in the meantime allowed schools to conduct classes through online platforms, but the system has received criticism as it does not cater for all pupils.

Schools to open between June, August

THE Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture have made a submission to the cabinet for schools to re-open on 3 June or 3 August 2020 for traditional face-to-face learning.This was said by Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Peya Mushelenga, when he gave an update on cabinet resolutions at the Covid-19 communication centre here in Windhoek on Wednesday.Mushelenga noted that the most preferred option schools would follow is option one, which will permit schools to follow a quarterly system for face-to-face learning for both pupils and teachers. The academic year will then end on 28 May 2021.“Cabinet took note that option one is preferred to provide ample time to prepare school facilities for the implementation of e-learning modes as well as to enable schools to adhere to Covid-19 regulations when classes resume. Also to enable institutions of higher learning to prepare for the new intake and for the Namibia Student Financial Association Fund to plan for student funding,” he said.The minister indicated that cabinet similarly took note of option two as an alternative in the event that the lockdown is extended beyond 5 May 2020, noting that face-to-face teaching and learning will then resume on 3 June 2020 following a phased-in approach and close on 18 December 2020 for the academic year.

“Cabinet took note that the education ministry will continue with stakeholder engagement in order to identify and adapt interventions for the continuity of tuition with minimum disruptions while ensuring the health and safety of learners and staff,” he noted.

The ministry, he went on to say, was further directed to prioritise school and hostel infrastructure to enhanced hygiene standards in all educational institutions as per the Covid-19 public health guidelines.

All public and private schools closed on 16 March 2020 following the confirmation of the first two cases of Covid-19 in the country.

With the Coronavirus outbreak, all higher education institutions in Namibia have suspended face-to-face classes. Executive Director of the Ministry of Higher Education and Innovation Dr Alfred van Kent said that schools have already switched to e-learning and that the ministry is working with local Internet service providers on identifying and assisting students who do not have Internet access.

Namibia is considering options to restart the school year, local media reported.

According to the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Dr Peya Mushelenga said the cabinet had noted of the Ministry of Education’s submission of options to restart the school year.

One of the options was to follow a quarterly system and open on August 3 for face-to-face teaching and learning for learners and teachers. Under this option, school will end on May 28, 2021, for the learners.

An alternative option would be to resume on June 3, following a phased-in approach and closing on December 18 for the academic year. This way the academic year would still be concluded in 2020.

The broadcaster reported that the cabinet endorsed the resumption of face-to-face teaching and learning and authorised the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to adapt and adopt the academic calendar options.

State-owned daily newspaper New Era reported that cabinet prefers the option whereby schools will be allowed to follow a quarterly system because it allows for ample time to prepare school facilities for the implementation of online learning modes and enables schools to adhere to Covid-19 regulations when classes resume.

According to the daily, the government has devised a four-stage response plan aimed at easing the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, which has been in place since April 18.

Namibia is currently in stage 1 of the national lockdown, during which only certain activities are allowed as per the state of emergency regulations. The country moves to stage 2 on Tuesday.

President Hage Geingob announced last week that the lockdown would be eased on May 5 for the reopening economic activity, and entering stage 2 for 28 days until June 1.

During stage 2 of the lockdown, people will be allowed to travel between regions without permits and businesses will resume activity. However, the sale of alcohol will remain prohibited.

Under stage 2 lockdown, people older than 60 years and those with special health conditions will not be allowed at work, but will be encouraged to work from home for a few weeks. Public gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of 10 people.

Stage 3 will see a gradual reopening of borders to selected countries in the region, while restaurants, bars and hotels will be allowed to reopen under strict physical-distancing guidelines.

Secondary schools and universities will be allowed to resume face-to-face classes, while public gatherings will be restricted to 20 people.

Borders will reopen to international travel in stage 4.

Namibia has recorded 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with eight recoveries.

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was first recorded in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, in December 2019 and rapidly spread to the rest of the world.

To date, there are more than 3.5 million confirmed cases worldwide, with nearly 250,000 deaths and more than  1.1 million recoveries.

Namibia’s Education Ministry on Sunday resolved to amend the school calendar and close all public and private schools from March 16 to April 14 following two confirmed coronavirus cases.

In a statement, acting minister Martin Andjaba stated that school, colleges, national art galleries as well as libraries will be closed until the advised date.

“Based on these amendments, emphasis must be placed on the second term for teaching, learning and assessment to prepare learners for the second term examinations. This examination will cover the content of both the first and second term therefore learners will not receive a first-term progress report,” Andjaba said.

Namibia on Saturday confirmed two positive cases of COVID-19.

The country has also suspended inbound and outbound travel to and from Qatar, Ethiopia and Germany.

On Friday 31 July, President Hage Geingob announced that some measures for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be reintroduced in the midst of an upsurge in cases of viruses. For the second time in four months, Namibian schools have been ordered to be closed for 28 days as of Tuesday 4 August.

Restrictions on public gatherings were tightened from 250 to 100. In addition, people are not allowed to eat alcohol in taverns or bars.

A state of emergency (SOE) remains in place in Namibia until September 17 and there will be various other restrictions for the duration of the SOE.

It requires at least 1 meter (3 ft) physical distance, a prerequisite for facemasks to be worn while using both private and public transit, shopping, engaging in outdoor group exercise, using public spaces, and at work.

Borders continue to be closed and international flights are suspended. Entry to Namibia is forbidden except for citizens of Namibia and foreigners living in Namibia.

In June Namibia lifted some of the restrictions on COVID-19; Individuals are no longer subject to compulsory 14-day quarantine upon arrival but are expected to send a negative polymerase chain reaction ( PCR) test 72 hours prior to arrival. They will then have to live seven days at their initial destination in the country until a test is performed, after which people will be allowed to leave their accommodation if the result is negative.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia might have trouble maintaining physical distancing of people during the counting and verification of voters in the upcoming regional and local authority elections scheduled for November this year.

The ECN’s chief electoral officer, Theo Mujoro, says this is one of the challenges the commission faces in its attempt to organise the upcoming elections under the unfamiliar circumstances of a pandemic.

“The counting and verification of votes require that other people would want to see what you are doing. I think that is one of the things that we will have trouble [with] maintaining the required physical distancing between persons,” Mujoro said in Windhoek on Wednesday at a briefing of civil society organisations on the ECN’s preparedness for the elections.

The ECN also briefed the civil society organisations on the electoral calendar and the commission’s Covid-19 mitigation strategy, which is aimed at minimising the spread of the coronavirus during the conduct of the elections.

Mujoro said the ECN has designed its Covid-19 mitigation plan on the premise that a high number of voters would be turning up to cast votes at polling stations.

He said all participants in events to precede the elections would be required to comply with the national guidelines against the spread of the novel coronavirus, such as the mandatory wearing of face masks and the regular sanitising of hands.

This would include all events from the registration of voters to polling day.

Those who contravene the measures would be required to leave electoral venues, he said. He added that the ECN “is under no illusion that this is going to be an easy task”.

Mujoro also said it would serve no purpose to postpone the elections given the probability that the coronavirus pandemic might not go away.

“Nobody expected this. We had no idea that we will be faced with this pandemic, therefore we rely on our stakeholders to adhere to and implement the measures set out in our mitigation strategy […] the nature of conducting all electoral processes is designed in such a manner that you will find people gathered in one area in close proximity and that is, unfortunately, the fertile ground for Covid-19,” Mujoro said.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia will arrange special voting for Covid-19 patients for the upcoming regional and local authority elections.

This will be informed by the number of people who will be in hospitals, isolation and quarantine facilities during the period determined for the conduct of the elections.

ECN’s chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro said the commission will put together teams that will be sent to various quarantine facilities to register and facilitie the voting process for these people. Mujoro said the commission will work hand in hand with the health ministry to conduct this process.

Any individual who will participate in the electoral process from registration to polling day will be required to adhere to the national guidelines against the spread of coronavirus.

This includes the mandatory wearing of face masks and the regular sanitising of hands. Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro during a press briefing in Windhoek on Wednesday morning said those who contravene these measures will be forced to leave the electoral venues.

He however said the ECN is under no illusion that this is going to be an easy task.

“Nobody expected this. We had no idea that we will be faced with this pandemic, therefore, we rely on our stakeholders to adhere to and implement the measures set out in our mitigation plan,” Mujoro said.

HEALTH minister Kalumbi Shangula says coronavirus test kits imported and donated from China were not contaminated as is being alleged by some members of the public.
Shangula said the test kits meet worldwide standards and produce authentic results.He was responding to questions posed by UPM parliamentarian Jan van Wyk in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

THE Namibia Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) has announced a temporary lockdown of its head office in Windhoek for seven days after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday.

This was announced in an internal memo sent to staff on Monday by managing director Immanuel Mulunga, who also confirmed the lockdown to The Namibian.

“One of our employees tested positive with the coronavirus on Friday, 3 July 2020. The employees in question, along with about three colleagues who he closely interacted with, are currently under quarantine,” he said in the memo.

Mulunga said the three colleagues are under quarantine at a facility.

He added that the head office building was disinfected on Saturday and will be under lock and key until Monday, 14 July. A meeting will be convened on Saturday to assesses the matter, he added.

He said all employees will work remotely from today (6 July) until 14 July.

PRESIDENT Hage Geingob on Monday announced plans to temporarily relocate residents of informal settlements at Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis to unallocated mass houses in the coastal towns.

Speaking at the Covid-19 response for Erongo region at State House on Monday afternoon, the president said this is in an effort to decongest informal settlements of those towns, as the spread of Covid-19 has risen sharply there in recent weeks.

“The Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, together with the regional and local authorities will identify suitable venues or facilities with adequate provision of water and ablution facilities, where residents can be temporarily relocated,” he said.

Geingob said he has requested Erongo governor to investigate the feasibility of using the unallocated mass houses at both Swakopmund and Walvis Bay to place people.

“The governor has reported that 60 mass houses are available at Walvis Bay and 100 at Swakopmund. We will determine how to utilize those for this purpose,” he said.

Geingob said Namibia is currently dealing with two very distinct Covid-19 situation, with the one in Walvis Bay being the most prevailing.

“It is, therefore, necessary to apply rational and targeted interventions to respond effectively to both situations.

“The rising number of cases at Walvis Bay warrants additional containment measures to slow the rate of transmission and prevent the disease from spreading beyond the three local authority areas,” he said.

As a result, the Erongo region is set to remain within Stage 3 of the state of emergency lockdown, while the rest of the country remains in stage 4.

Reasons for success

Namibia responded to COVID-19 through a collective response of many stakeholders, both governmental and non-governmental. The government was quick to draw on lessons from other countries that had already been hit by the pandemic, and listened to the advice and received technical support from various stakeholders.

“With the confirmation of the first two cases of COVID-19 on 13 March 2020, President Hage G. Geingob acted swiftly within the next 10 hours to ban inbound and outbound travel from Addis Ababa and Doha”, says Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari, spokesperson to the President of Namibia. “A state of emergency was declared by the President with a strong emphasis on the health of Namibians as the first priority.”

The closure of its borders on 24 March included a ban of travel into the nation from all countries for a 30-day period. Citizens and permanent residents inside the country were not allowed to leave, whereas those caught outside the borders at the time of the closure were permitted to enter only “if their mission was critical to the national interest,” said the health minister. Those people then needed to observe a mandatory and supervised quarantine for 14 days.

These restrictions were put in place when the country had reported only two cases, and this early response was crucial in their success in controlling the virus.

Although the governor could not explain the reason why young people are the ones contracting the virus, he urged the youth to minimise their movement, which he believes could help protect elderly members in the communities from contracting Covid-19.

“The statistics show that more young people are contracting the virus at Walvis Bay. This is worrisome as we know that most young people in Kuisebmond live with elderly people. Young people should be extra cautious and minimise their movements and not put the lives of innocent elderly and children at risk,” said Andre.

In an interview with The Namibian on Sunday, he urged the public to change their behaviour and embrace the personal protection guidelines promoted by the health authorities and other leaders.

“What the authorities are advising is for personal protection. Where you can, please avoid large gatherings, minimise your movement, wash your hands often and wear a mask when in public,” he said.

The oldest person confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 at Walvis Bay is 82 years old, while the youngest is five years old. They are all suspected to be living in overcrowded yards sharing a tap and a toilet with up to 30 other people.

The education directorate in the Oshana region has placed 11 pupils who recently travelled from high-risk areas in Erongo region under quarantine.

Some of the pupils have been placed under quarantine at isolation facilities in Oshana while others have been directed to go into self-isolation until health officials have cleared them of possible novel coronavirus infection.

The acting deputy director of education in Oshana, Hilma Nuunyango-George, told The Namibian that none of the pupils under quarantine or in self-isolation is showing any signs of Covid-19.

However, the directorate is still waiting for their coronavirus test results from health officials.

“The pupils have been placed under quarantine since when they resumed the face-to-face learning. They are not showing any signs of Covid-19 and they are all in good health. We are in constant communication with the ministry of health officials in the region for any possible outcome and so far we did not receive any news of them testing positive to Covid-19, which is good news,” she said.

Nuunyango-George added: “Our contact with the pupils placed under quarantine is just to see if they are coping with their school work and to deliver study materials to them as well. Everything else is being done by the health officials. We really cannot wait for them to be cleared of any possible infections and return back to school in order for them to continue their tutorials together with others. We are also in communication with the parents of those who are in self-isolation and they all seem to be doing well at the moment.”

There are about 28 schools in Oshana region offering Grade 11 and grade 12.

All of these schools are said to have clean drinking water and proper ablution facilities.

FOUR teachers at a primary school at Outjo were told to self-quarantine as they were at a funeral at the Kunene region town which was also attended by a woman from Walvis Bay who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In a letter dated 22 June, a school principal said Outjo circuit inspector Thomas Amutenya was informed that the four teachers had been in contact with people from Walvis Bay and the school management was requesting that they should stay at home for self-quarantine “as there might be a possible transmission of the virus”.Amutenya confirmed that he received the letter and told The Namibian that the matter was referred to the ministry of health to test the teachers.According to Amutenya, the principal is uncomfortable about the teachers returning to school before they have been tested because Walvis Bay is a hotspot of Covid-19.The primary school has about 500 pupils and more than twenty staff members, including teachers.

Namibia Ports Authority employees are undergoing a contact testing and self-isolation process after a spouse of a staff member from the harbour parastatal’s administration block at Walvis Bay recently tested positive for Covid-19.

Tino !Hanabeb, a commercial executive at Namport, told The Namibian that operations are continuing as precautionary disinfection of areas in which the employee’s movements were traced have taken place.

!Hanabeb said the company has adopted a rotational shift system and the shift of the affected employees ended on Monday.

“Nothing has been closed; the department is still operational. No one was sent home as the company has people working on weekly rotating shifts. This week is one group, next week is another group. So the group that worked last week is off and the new group will come on shift tomorrow,” said !Hanabeb.

He added that if any employees’ tests results turn out positive for Covid-19, the normal quarantine days kick in.

“If the spouse that works for Namport is negative then next week the person will come back to work. But in an unlikely event that the person tested positive then the people who were in contact with that person become a level one possible contacts and it continues like that,”!Hanabeb said.

NamPost has announced the temporary closure of the Walvis Bay Post Office due to a possible exposure to Covid-19.

The post office is to be closed from tomorrow (23 June) until Friday (26 June).

NamPost corporate communications manager Wilson Shikoto in a media statement this afternoon said the post office will be closed for disinfection.

The Kuisebmund and Narraville post offices will close on Tuesday for precautionary disinfection and reopen on Wednesday.

“The decision comes after careful consideration of the possible risk exposure as one of our employees at Walvis Bay Post Office might have been in contact with an identified [Covid-19] case,” said Shikoto.

He added that the staff member has been sent into self-isolation while NamPost awaits guidance from the authorities.

According to Shikoto, courier services will continue to do deliveries and collect essentials only.

WALVIS Bay, which has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Namibia, is short of 600 beds for quarantine purposes.

The coastal town’s Covid-19 response team is in dire need of beds for contact isolation.

The beds are part of a list of requirements sent to Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge’s office on 18 June.

In email correspondence seen by The Namibian yesterday, the acting senior medical officer at Walvis Bay State Hosptial, Dr Martha Ntinda, said the hospital also requires accommodation facilities for medical staff, six cellphones, 100 boxes of copy paper, 1 000 personal protective equipment (masks, face shields, goggles and overalls) five vehicles and two 14-seater minibuses. The hospital also requested for catering services.

“The team is seriously hindered by logistical challenges and urgently needs the assistance of the stakeholders to effectively respond to the Covid-19 outbreak in Walvis Bay district,” said Ntinda. Ntinda did not respond to The Namibian’s questions regarding the emailed letter yesterday. However, Ipinge confirmed the correspondence.

The Namibian understands that Walvis Bay Urban constituency yesterday afternoon delivered the six smartphones. By Sunday (21 June) the town reported roughly 12 new cases of Covid-19.

This is out of 15 cases the country recorded over the weekend, bringing Namibia’s total to 55 cases.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula yesterday announced that Namibia recorded nine new Covid-19 cases, of which seven were from Kuisebmund, at Walvis Bay. Most of these cases reported at that town were local transmissions, with links to case 32.

Shangula stressed that this is the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak that Namibia has recorded nine cases in a single day.

“I must just add that this is the first time ever that we have recorded nine new cases within 24-hours. Seven cases are from Walvis Bay, and three are the family [members] of case 35 – the father, a brother and son. Four others are also from Kuisebmund [Walvis Bay] with no known contacts to confirmed cases. Two are travel-related and both are in quarantine facilities,” he said.

The minister said case 32 gave rise to case 34 which gave rise to other cases at Kuisebmund.

“This is a cluster transmission in a close setting. These cases are a clear demonstration that our strategy of contact identification and isolation is bearing fruit. The number of these cases should therefore not cause panic or alarm,” he said.

From the two new cases, one is a two-year-old bioy, case 48, and the other a 10-year-old girl, case 41. Both cases are from Walvis Bay.

Shangula said Namibia now has 19 recoveries and 36 active cases, out of a total of 7 009 samples tested. Yesterday alone, 172 samples were tested, nine of which came back positive.

NO CONFIDENCE IN ERONGO HEALTH LEADERSHIP

Meanwhile, the Erongo region corona care committee has (ERCC) accused regional public health director Anna Jonas and medical officer Dr Amir Shaker, of being evasive and not forthcoming with information regarding the status of the region’s preparedness to fight Covid-19.

The ERCC is a joint effort consisting of volunteers from the government, regional and local authorities, private and business communities and political parties that was formed three months ago to map out a strategy to supplement government efforts.

A member of the committee from the private sector, Anton Pretorius, said health officials in the region have not shared any strategies nor reports of what they have done so far.

“The public has no idea of what is happening,” Pretorius said.

The latest preliminary findings by a multi-disciplinary technical team from the ministry of health are that the region was not fully prepared to handle the pandemic, which poses a threat of exporting the virus to the rest of the country.

Members of the ERCC, however, said the region would have been ready had health officials been forthcoming with information.

They said they submitted a strategic plan to the regional leadership which includes the Office of the Governor, the chairperson of the Erongo regional council, the chief regional officer and the regional health director, on 14 April.

The plan was endorsed on 15 April by Dr Shaker, the chairperson of the regional disaster risk management committee Juuso Kambueshe, Welwitschia Hospital chief executive officer Matthias Braune, Dr Wolfgang Tiez, a senior healthcare practitioner and Anton Pretorius, shareholder and director of Namdock. All it needed was national approval, the committee said.

“This incompetence is primarily a result of the health ministry’s regional leadership and their condescending inability to listen, hear, and understand the needs and expectations of the people,” said Pretorius.

Swapo Party district information coordinator for Walvis Bay Urban constituency Claudius Aikera, who is part of the ERCC team, blamed the delays on the health ministry’s “bureaucratic systems”, which led to the delay of the construction of a 150-bed Covid-19 field hospital at Walvis Bay.

“The business community gave money to build the facility. But there was somehow a problem. We sorted it out. I blame the ministry of health as they were not forthcoming,” said Aikera.

By the time of going to print, Erongo health officials and the ERCC committee members were locked in an urgent meeting with regional governor Neville Andre over the situation.

Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge, as head of the constituency risk management committee, called for the resignation of the Erongo health director and medical officer, accusing them of sabotaging the region’s readiness and response plan to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

MEMBERS of the Walvis Bay community flocked to the Kuisebmond community hall on Saturday to be tested for Covid-19 after a message was circulated on social media that mass testing for the virus was taking place at the venue.

The residents have however turned away and told that the testing was only for those who had been contacted during contact tracing.

The anxious residents said they were disappointed at being turned away because are eager to know their status.

Some were hoping to get their results written on paper so that they can present them to the police, to be issued permits to leave the region.

Other residents said they work in fish factories and fear that they might have been exposed to the virus.

There were some who claimed they are neighbours and friends to the people who had tested positive and they wanted to be sure of their safety, especially since their children play with others in the same neighbourhood.

Law enforcement agents explained to the anxious group that those being tested had been told to go to the hall. The public was warned against reacting to messages sent through social media platforms, as this was causing confusion.

THE Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture have instructed Mariental Secondary School to suspend classes for 14 days after a pupil at the school tested positive for Covid-19.

The pupil, who was on Thursday announced as the country’s 37th Covid-19 case is a Walvis Bay resident who attends school in Mariental. He is a boarder at the school’s hostel.

He travelled to the town from Walvis Bay on 2 June and attended classes on 11 June, but has stayed home since 12 June after exhibiting symptoms of a runny nose, headache and loss of taste and smell.

“Following this development, as a ministry we are mindful of the seriousness of this situation and the responsibilities we have.

“The ministry, on advice from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, has with immediate effect suspended classes for a period of 14 days until 6 July and boarders will remain in the hostel for the next 14 days,” education executive director Sanet Steenkamp said in a statement issued on Thursday.
She also revealed that one teacher and 13 pupils were taken into quarantine today.

The pupil is a 20-year-old and the health ministry has said he is in satisfactory condition.

THE Bank of Namibia has reverted to stage one of lockdown.

This comes after it was established that some of its staff members reside at a complex where the country’s Covid-19 case 33, the alleged fugitive from South Africa was apprehended.

Case 33 is a 35-year-old Namibian with South African citizenship.

He fled from South Africa into Namibia, crossing the Orange River in a canoe.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and to protect the wellbeing of staff members, the bank has taken a decision, as a precaution, and with effect from 17 June 2020, to revert to the stage 1 approach of only allowing essential services that are not able to work from home to work from bank premises for a period of 14 days, or as directed by their respective heads of department,” the director of communications Emma Haihambo said in an internal memo.

She further said the central bank would also be hosting virtual meetings and avoid face-to-face meetings with stakeholders in all interactions.

“Additionally, the bank’s premises will be disinfected, starting tomorrow (Wednesday). The bank will continue to monitor developments and communicate on the next steps in consultation with the authorities,” Haihambo said.

In response to the leaked memorandum, deputy corporate communications director Kazembire Zemburuka said the internal lockdown is not due to a staff member has been in contact with the alleged fugitive.

“The circulating memorandum was meant for the staff of the bank, informing them of a precautionary decision taken as a result of possible exposure to a Covid-19 case,” Zemburuka said.

He said the bank remains dedicated to protecting the well-being of its staff members and the public should not panic as all necessary measures have been put in place to adhere to health protocols.

Case number 33 is a 35-year-old Namibian with South African citizenship and was arrested in connection with alleged organised criminal activity.

He was apprehended on Saturday at the said complex in Windhoek’s central business district.

The alleged fugitive is currently isolated in police custody.

The Namibian has learnt that the man visited the flats on Saturday at 13h00 and only left at 19h00 on Saturday, while sanitising only took place after he left.

He fled from South Africa into Namibia, crossing the Orange River in a canoe.

TRUCK drivers across the country have complained about the state of the facilities where they are kept for their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Damien Mabengano, deputy director of transportation regulations in the Ministry of Works and Transport, yesterday at the Covid-19 communication centre in Windhoek said they have done an assessment of the facilities and noted some do not meet the required standards.

Adherence to regulations in the transport sector was discussed.

“They just call it a quarantine facility, but the things that are happening there . . . the conditions are not conducive and they (drivers) have complained about that,” Mabengano said.

He said these conditions are among the reasons drivers provide for leaving the facilities.

Truckers have also complained about low salaries, yet they are classified as essential services and have to drive through countries with a high incidence of Covid-19, he said.

“The risk part is not accommodated in their salaries. Some have indicated they suffer from medical conditions, and are taking medication for high blood pressure and diabetes. When they are at the facility and their medication runs out, it is difficult for them to get more supplies. Some operators do not provide for this.”

Mabengano said the labour relationship between drivers and their employers are yet to be investigated.

He denied claims that the government has refused to meet the drivers to hear their plight, noting this needs to be facilitated through the truck drivers’ associations.

He said the ministry is improving truck stops and has established wellness centres for truckers at Walvis Bay, Otjiwarongo and Katima Mulilo.

The Walvis Bay Corridor Group is working with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to provide these centres.

Mabengano said quarantine is mandatory for all drivers, and the two ministries are ensuring the facilities are in good condition.

DISCIPLINARY PROCESS

Stephan Terblanche, chief executive officer of FP du Toit Transport said the disciplinary process of the two truck drivers who allegedly escaped from quarantine in May, is ongoing.

One driver (47), who is Namibia’s 21st Covid-19 case, returned from South Africa on 8 May and was tested and quarantined at FP du Toit Transport’s truck depot at the coastal town.

Before receiving his test results, he allegedly entered the community with a colleague, but was later apprehended by the police. The company has since suspended the two truckers, Terblanche said.

He said drivers are provided with money for extra kilometres, and medical aid; are insured and belong to a pension fund, which was negotiated with their unions.

He said quarantine facilities need to be inspected, and invited members of the media to visit them.

Terblanche said the stigma around truck drivers is not fair as they play an important role in the essential supplies they deliver.

He said it is a risk because they move across borders, but are needed.

“It is important to work together and not stigmatise them. It is not easy being a truck driver,” he said, especially since they have to be quarantined as opposed to returning to their families upon arrival in the country.

THE disciplinary process of the two FP du Toit Transport truck drivers, who in May allegedly escaped from quarantine, continues.

Speaking at the Covid-19 communication centre this morning, Stephan Terblanche, chief executive officer of the transport company, confirmed this and declined to comment further.

One driver (47), who is Namibia’s 21st Covid-19 case, returned from South Africa on 8 May and was quarantined at FP du Toit Transport’s truck depot at the coastal town.

Before receiving his results, the man allegedly entered the community with a colleague, but was later apprehended by the police. The company has since suspended the two truckers.

Terblanche said security guards should not have allowed the truckers to leave the depot.

President Hage Geingob is currently giving a Covid-19 update on the Erongo region and Walvis Bay lockdown.

When the rest of the country moved to Stage three of lockdown roughly a fortnight ago, Walvis Bay was reverted to stage one because of the number of positive Covid-19 cases.

President Hage Geingob says many have made sacrifices to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic but the situation remains difficult. He says despite new cases being reported, Namibia has not reported any deaths.

He said as of 7 June, Namibia reported 29 Covid-19 positive cases, of which eight of those cases are from the Erongo region.

He said case 22 is that of a fish trader who is in intensive care and had contact with various persons in Walvis Bay. He also spoke about case 26, who has come in contact with 15 people.

He said the cases in Walvis Bay warrants for specific measures, as community members are not adhering to lockdown regulations.

The president further said the idea is to contain possible community transmissions, as well as stop the spread of Covid-19 completely.

He called on Namibians to comply with regulations, listen to authorities, especially frontline workers and the police.

He said the police are not at war with the public and these measures are in place to safeguard the health of Namibians. He said this is not a punishment but co-operation from the public is needed.

Also speaking at state house, health minister Kalumbi Shangula said the guidelines have already been revealed to the public, but there are minor adjustments.

He said the lockdown for the entire Erongo region kicks off tonight until 22 June. He said essential service providers are allowed to operate during this stage. This also includes the media.

“Residents are not allowed to leave their homes during this time. Physical exercise is not allowed,” he said.

The health minister said most shops and businesses would be closed, except those classified as essential or critical. However, the police will be operational.

The sale of alcohol remains prohibited during that region’s lockdown. Shebeens, pub and clubs will thus remain closed, Shangula said, adding that restaurants and other food suppliers will operate on a takeaway basis.

“When a service is not classified as essential, employees are expected to work from home,” Shangula said.

He further called on those working to comply with social distancing measures, in addition to wearing masks. He further said the traveling of between towns is prohibited unless it is to provide essential or critical services.

Gatherings during this period need to stick to 10 persons or less, Shangula said.

He further said the regional director of the region can provide travel permits for emergency travelling.

The minister said those who violate the regulations are subject to a fine or imprisonment as it is a punishable offence.

Shangula said testing for the Erongo region will be actively pursued. Meanwhile, he called on the Erongo residents not to panic buy as enough food supplies would be available.

He said the proper screening would also be actively conducted while encouraging the residents to adhere to the health standards and lockdown regulations.

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