Covid-19: Partying Namibians throw caution to the wind
22 September 2020 | Health
Namibians have thrown caution to the wind and are failing to adhere to regulations without being policed, after the Covid-19 state of emergency was lifted.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula yesterday expressed his disappointment, saying there is a serious need for behaviour change in Namibia. One the biggest challenges is citizens' affinity for togetherness, he said, which leads them to crowding and congregating in huge numbers, a gateway for Covid-19 transmission.
“I travelled through various suburbs in Windhoek this weekend and I tell you almost 80% of people were wearing no masks and the other 19% wore masks, but they were hanging around their necks. Only 1% of people wore masks properly,” he said.
Country director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Namibia, Dr Eric Dziuban, cautioned there is nothing protecting Namibia from a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Yesterday afternoon Namibia has recorded 149 new Covid-19 infections, 79 new recoveries and one new corona-related death.
This brought the total confirmed cases in the country to 10 526, with a total of 8 112 recoveries, 2 301 active cases and a total of 113 Covid-19 or related deaths.
“Namibia is definitely still vulnerable to cases to go up again rapidly. It is more important than ever that people are adhering to the measures that we have learnt all year,” he said.
Dziuban added that the biggest concern at this point is that relaxing all regulations could lead to many more people landing in hospitals.
“If we just relax and go back to schools, restaurants… and we decide we do not need to be cautious anymore and we do not need our masks, then I expect those numbers to go up much larger than anything we have seen yet,” he said.
The executive director of the health ministry, Ben Nangombe, said those who fail to adhere to regulations can potentially face a hefty fine of up to N$100 000 or 10 years' imprisonment.
This is a sharp increase from the N$2 000 fine or six months' imprisonment prescribed in the now lapsed state of emergency regulations.
The Environmental Health Act of 2015 allows Shangula to set out new regulations after a state of emergency.
According to Nangombe, the new set of regulations are currently being finalised and should be announced in the coming days.
Nangombe agreed that Namibians' contemptuous attitude towards Covid-19 may exert more pressure on the health system.
“It is a cause for concern. I drove in some neighbourhoods in Windhoek and what you see is a quite a large number of people who are not adhering to safety measures. People are in places in big numbers not wearing masks,” he said.
Nangombe said he is worried this will bring about a new wave of infections, which the country is not prepared for.
According to Nangombe, people appear to be nonchalant about compliance to the safety measures and protocols.
“If we do not [comply], we are shooting ourselves in the foot and will end up seeing increases which will put pressure on the public and private health systems. We will see pressure on the available resources and available healthcare workers to take care of the sick people. And it will put pressure on our economy and our government to enforce stricter measures,” he said.