FOURTEEN days after the State of Emergency have come to an end, the health ministry that has been monitoring the situation since has advised Namibians to still adhere to the Public Health and Environment Act of 2015, which stipulates that people should still wear masks, maintain social distancing and sanitize regularly.
This was expressed at a panel discussion on the COVID-19 new health regulations, held by Deputy Commissioner Josia Shikongo, head of the Namibian Police’s Reserve Force, Crime Prevention Directorate, Loide Shaparara, Senior Legal Officer at the Office of the Attorney General (AG) and Sara Nghishidimbwa senior legal officer at the ministry of health.
Nghishidimbwa stated that the State of Emergency legally can only run for six months and was thus discontinued by President Hage Gengob and as a result, the public health and environment act has been operationalized.
She added that although the State of Emergency has been discontinued, Namibians are existing in a hybrid reality, where some regulations in the State of Emergency are still in place, such as the wearing of masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizing.
“We are living in a hybrid situation. The restrictions have been relaxed however they are still intact, we should self-regulate,” Nghishidimbwa said.
Giving a legal perspective on what would happen to citizens who contravene this act, Loide Shaparara, a senior legal officer from the office of the (AG) stated that citizens will no longer be given on the spot fines but will be taken to court by state and will have to require a lawyer for trial which will determine whether they will be found innocent or face a penalty of a fine of up to N$100 000 or 10 years in prison or both.
Touching on public transportation, Deputy Commissioner, Shikongo from the Reserve Force, however, commended Namibians for adhering to social distancing in public transport and wearing masks however added that there is a need for public transport operators to provide sanitization to passengers.
Deputy Commissioner Shikongo further lamented the fact that residents, especially in the informal areas crowd at sheebeens and bars and surpassing the number of 50, which is the number of people allowed to gather.
“People should avoid crowded places, as they consume more alcohol and as time lapses they get more relaxed and take off their masks and start dancing, we should avoid these situations,” Shikongo said.
Under the Public and Environmental Health Act regulations, establishments who sell liquor are allowed to operate between 09:00 to 18:00 for offsite consumption, while for onsite consumption, businesses are only allowed to operate until 22:00.