Tourists to return

Even though the number of Covid-19 cases in Namibia rose to 63 yesterday, government has taken a daring step to revive the N$15 billion tourism industry, which has lost a large chunk of its 44 000 direct jobs.

23 June 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK



Government has set into motion a plan to open the country's borders during stage five of the Covid-19 lockdown in Namibia, which is expected to take effect from 18 September.

“We have added an additional stage five, estimated from 18 September, to address exclusively the opening of points of entry and the resumption of air travel,” President Hage Geingob said during a State House media conference yesterday.

Geingob said government, in collaboration with the tourism and hospitality sector, will also conduct a targeted international tourism revival initiative between 15 July and 15 August.

“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 our tourism sector that employs over 100 000 Namibians.

“Modalities for this initiative will be announced in the coming weeks and this trial will inform and strengthen public sector preparations for the imminent reopening of points of entry under stage five,” Geingob said.

This comes after a report was submitted to the government in April that the Namibian economy was at huge risk, while one in four Namibians could lose their jobs if strict lockdown measures continued.





Economy critical

Geingob said while the lives of Namibians “is our greatest priority”, the economy was just as critical.

“However, in our quest to protect lives today and tomorrow, we must safeguard our economy by mitigating the negative impacts of Covid-19-related restrictions. It is for these reasons, under stage four, measures have been further relaxed to facilitate social and economic activities.

“While Covid-19 may remain in our midst and in our communities for the foreseeable future, we must do everything to keep it out of our homes and out of our lives, by applying strict health and hygiene precautions,” Geingob added.



Erongo eases down

The Erongo Region, which has become the epicentre of the pandemic in Namibia, was also thrown a lifeline by Geingob yesterday, just hours after it was announced that eight new cases had been reported in the region, bringing the total countrywide to 63.

Geingob was at pains to draw a balance between protecting lives and supporting livelihoods.

Erongo now moves from a full lockdown (stage one) to stage three until 6 July.

This means the region's businesses and workforce can resume their daily grind. To further prioritise the economy, travel between towns in Erongo and to the rest of the country will be permitted, with the exception of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis.

However, “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.

“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,” Geingob said. The rest of the country will migrate from stage three to stage four at midnight next Monday.



Essential service providers

Essential service providers, as defined in the regulations, and truck drivers will be permitted to travel into and out of Erongo on the basis of an authorised 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, are directed to identify separate truck ports and parking areas at Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis. Local truck drivers are to be escorted by law enforcement officials to and from their respective delivery destinations,” Geingob said.

Public gatherings in Erongo will be restricted to 50 people with the exception of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, where gatherings will be restricted to 10 people. In the rest of the country, public gatherings will increase to 250.

Schools across Erongo, except for Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, that meet Covid-19 compliance standards may resume face-to-face instruction for grades 11 and 12.

The resumption of grades 11, 12 and pre-primary to grade three remains suspended for the next 14 days in these towns.

Vulnerable people will be permitted to work from home in Erongo, subject to authorisation 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 and hygiene protocols, Geingob said.



Quarantine at own cost

As from 30 June, all Namibians and non-Namibians entering the country must submit to a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival, and mandatory, government-supervised quarantine at own cost.

Only citizens who cannot afford to quarantine at own cost can apply to be quarantined at government cost.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country will move to stage four from 30 June to 17 September for an extended 10-week period.

Points of entry will remain closed, except for the transportation of imported goods.



Education

The resumption of pre-primary to grade three education has been deferred in all 14 regions for two weeks until 6 July.

In the event that a pupil or staff member presents with Covid-19-related symptoms or tests positive, the school will be suspended for a period of 14 days and traced contacts will be placed under quarantine.

“I wish to make use of this opportunity to reassure parents and guardians, who are understandably anxious about the decision to send their children back to school during a time of great uncertainty.

“According to the evidence before us, the consequences of not resuming learning following a long disruption to the academic calendar can have lasting and undesirable consequences on the academic progression of our children.

“I also emphasise that the return of learners to class is voluntary. Parents may decide to keep their children home and assume responsibility for homeschooling. Our schools should therefore not employ coercive or punitive measures against parents who decide not to initially resume face-to-face instruction,” the head of state said.

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