Namibia at crossroads

The country is on tenterhooks as reported cases of the coronavirus infections jump to seven, with all borders now shut down.

25 March 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES







WINDHOEK

Three Namibians have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, as infections of the disease that has killed 17 234 people worldwide so far shifts from just foreign nationals visiting the country.

Prior to Monday, when the first Namibian was confirmed to be infected, all three cases recorded in the country at the time involved foreigners only – a Romanian couple and a German national.

But yesterday, government announced the number has jumped to seven, with three confirmed to be Namibians. Government, at a press conference at State House yesterday, confirmed six cases – but news of the seventh confirmed infection came while the proceedings of the conference were still underway.

Details

The three cases involving Namibians include a student at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, a 19-year-old man who recently returned from London and a local person who has not travelled abroad. The latter confirms the country’s first incident of local transmission of the virus.

Details were still sketchy as to the nationality of the seventh confirmed case.

Locked down

President Hage Geingob yesterday announced a lockdown of the country’s leading commercial regions of Khomas and Erongo – considered the main entry points of visitors from outside the country.

Also announced yesterday was the closure of all the country’s borders – with no foreigners allowed to enter the country for 30 days.

Namibian travellers would be allowed to cross the borders in special cases.

These measures come into place from midnight this Friday, government announced.

“The government fully understands that these are extraordinary measures. They are adopted with the sole purpose of protecting the health, security and safety of the Namibian people,” Geingob told journalists.

“During this difficult period, I call on all Namibians to cooperate with the authorities and to remain calm in order to ensure that public order is not compromised. Allow the authorities to work unhindered.”

All bars and cuca shops must close at 18h00 daily, government announced as part of precautions against the coronavirus.

South Africa on Monday announced a nationwide lockdown which will stretch for 21 days.

"From midnight on Thursday, 26 March, until midnight on Thursday, 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home," president Cyril Ramaphosa said late on Monday in a televised address to the nation.

As of yesterday, the number of confirmed cases in South Africa leapt to 554 – an astronomical jump from just 62 cases over a week ago.

The surge has raised alarms that a wider outbreak would put the country's already strained healthcare system under serious stress in one of the world's most unequal societies.

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