Corona Code RED

President Geingob has imposed stricter measures to stave off the threat of the coronavirus, including limiting funerals and other social gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

18 March 2020 | Disasters

STAFF REPORTERS

Government moved to quell the fears of Namibians over the movement of goods and services into the country after President Hage Geingob declared a coronavirus state of emergency during a State House media conference yesterday.

The country’s borders have now been closed to citizens from high-risk countries including the Schengen states, China, Iran Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan.

Home affairs minister Frans Kapofi told Namibian Sun after the media conference: “Anyone can go to and from South Africa, but there must be a need. We can’t dictate to people, but we are discouraging movement. The fewer the activities, the better.

“Primarily we only encourage movement on medical conditions, death, emergency or serious business.

“We can’t dictate to anyone but we prefer it that way. Those arriving from affected countries cannot be turned away but they will be screened and quarantined. We can’t turn anyone away. Truck drivers and pilots must continue travelling as usual.”

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula confirmed yesterday that 17 people who had come into contact with a Romanian couple who tested positive for the virus last week had also been tested, but the results were negative.

Motivating the need for a state of emergency, Geingob said it was an imperative intervention.

“I declare that with effect from 17 March, a state of emergency exists in the whole of Namibia on account of the coronavirus. The lives of our people are very important,” he said.

The measures outlined by health minister Shangula include limited travel in and out of Namibian, smaller gatherings of no more than 50 people at gatherings such as weddings and funerals and the suspension of parades by the armed forces.

Trade fairs, sporting events and demonstrations will also be suspended for the period, Shangula said.

Namibians and permanent residents seeking to return from high-risk countries would be allowed back, but would be subjected to mandatory screening and would be required to self-quarantine under supervision, Shangula explained.

Limited travel to and from South Africa would remain in place to allow those wishing to return to enter Namibia.

All visitors to Namibia travelling by air will now depart from Hosea Kutako International Airport to South Africa and proceed to their final destinations from there.

Leisure travel to Namibia is also suspended for 30 days.

Screening for the virus would not only be limited to points of entry into Namibia but also at checkpoints and roadblocks for domestic travel inside Namibia.

“All scheduled flights, including chartered private flights to and from countries where there is active local transmission, [are to] be suspended for 30 days with immediate effect. This suspension is exclusive of cargo and emergency flights to and from Namibia,” Shangula said.

International flights would either land at Hosea Kutako or the Walvis Bay airport, while domestic flights would be cancelled for a period of 30 days in the event a Namibian is infected with the virus.

Deaths related to the virus would be handled by the state, the government said.

N$130 million war chest

On the economic front, finance minister Calle Schlettwein announced the roll-out of a N$134 million anti-coronavirus war chest, while more funds would be provided for in the national budget for the same purpose.

The Bank of Namibia and the ministry of finance would also conduct an assessment on the impact of the virus on the economy, Schlettwein said, while the ministry of industrialisation was directed to look at the potential of locally manufacturing hand sanitisers.

Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila ruled out parliament being suspended, saying there was a need to pass important bills such as the budget. Only in extreme circumstances would it be called off.

Aochamub tests positive

Minister of international relations Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah also announced that Namibian ambassador to France Albertus Aochamub had tested positive for the virus.

“The ambassador is hospitalised but he is okay now. All staff members at the mission in Paris are directed to self-quarantine. We are hoping they will be able to manage it,” she said.

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