WHEN news that the lockdown of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis was lifted, hundreds of people that understood the relaxation of restrictive measures to be immediate, gathered at taxi ranks at coastal towns to travel to the traditional homes in the rural areas.
President Hage Geingob announced on Friday afternoon that although the country will remain under Stage 3 of the State of Emergency that the special dispensation on the Local Authority Areas of the three towns in the Erongo Region will be lifted. He also announced that the nightly curfew from 20:00 to 05:00 will be implemented countrywide.
The exodus of large numbers of people from the coast was, however, halted because the lockdown will only lift at midnight on Saturday night. Besides the extra day that people will have to wait, they will also have to take into account that the curfew will not allow them to travel on the main routes to the North and other parts of the country after 20:00 at night.
The commander of the Community Affairs Division of the Namibian Police in the Erongo Region, Inspector Ileni Shapumba pointed out that traffic checkpoints will only be removed at midnight on Saturday evening.
He said people were stopped from travelling because they would have been ordered to turn around at the roadblocks.
“We are advising people to travel safely but that they will have to keep in mind that movement without travel permits will only be allowed from Sunday morning. We also discourage any travel at night because it does not only result in a breach of the curfew but it is also unsafe for road users,” he said.
He also pointed out that motor vehicle accidents along roads might take hours to be noticed because travel during curfew hours is prohibited.
“This may cause a delay in people receiving emergency medical assistance,” he said.
Inspector Shapumba said the police did anticipate an increase in public transport traffic numbers both to and from the coast and reacted quickly to halt the exodus before people contravened the lockdown regulations still in place.
The continuous lockdown of Walvis Bay since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March has left thousands of residents of the harbour town jobless, destitute, and desperate to return to their loved ones in the rural areas.