Covid testing at Okahandja roadblock

14 May 2021 | Health

ELLANIE SMIT



WINDHOEK

A mobile Covid-19 testing station has been launched at the Windhoek-Okahandja roadblock this week.

An initiative by the Tour and Safari Association of Namibia (TASA), a second station will also be set up at the Windhoek-Rehoboth roadblock.

Speaking at the launch, deputy minister of tourism Heather Sibungo said although the Namibian tourism sector has been heavily hit by the pandemic, she is sure that if everyone pulls in the same direction and continues to show innovation, lockdowns and curfews will become a distant memory.

“The setting up of this testing station at this particular roadblock is highly laudable and a progress contribution to government effort.”

She said it is no doubt the roadblock with the highest traffic volume and transit point for both nationals and international travellers and is, therefore, an ideal and strategic point of service in the current fight against the pandemic.

“With Namibia having recorded an 87% decline in international tourist arrivals in 2020, this was such a major shock that translated into massive loss of over 1 000 jobs, with some establishments having closed completely, while others are gradually opening.”

Mapping the way foreward

Sibungo said for government, this has caused a sharp decline in foreign exchange and tax revenues, which curbs public spending capacity and the ability to deploy the measures necessary to support livelihoods through this crisis.

According to her, tourism is a socio-economic pillar for Namibia and, therefore, collective effort is necessary to find solutions and map the way forward to safeguard the future of the sector amidst and post the pandemic.

“Namibia has been one of the first movers in Africa to reopen its borders to international visitors through the International Tourism Revival Initiative, which commenced 1 September 2020.”

She said through the initiative, the country achieved the resumption of safe cross-border travel, managed to promote safe tourism services at all points of tourist contact and restored confidence in Namibia as a safe destination.

“Tourist arrivals through Hosea Kutako International Airport have increase from a mere 294 in September when we reopened to over 10 000 by end of March.”

Sibungo said given the worldwide fear for travel still, this is an achievement for Namibia.

According to her, the Tourism Revival Initiative has enabled the sector to fully restart business, and it has injected liquidity into the sector, protecting further job losses and creating hope for survival and livelihood.

“We have also seen re-employment which is a positive sign. We are among the countries with conducive and responsive travel protocols.”

She added that as a government, they continue to adjust the protocols based on developments locally and globally, but most importantly in the interest of both Namibians and visitors.

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