IN the wake of President Hage Geingob’s declaration of a State of Emergency with regard to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the fourth Decision Making Cabinet of 2020 introduced measures to strengthen Namibia’s response to the threat of the deadly virus.
With regards to points of entry into Namibia, the issuance of visas on arrival was suspended at the Hosea Kutako International Airport and a travel ban on residents from affected countries, such as Schengen States, China, Iran Korea, United Kingdom, United States of America and Japan was implemented.
The travel ban will be reviewed regularly.
A temporary travel suspension for 30 days for Namibians or permanent residents, functionaries except for special cases with prior authorisation with the Ministry of Health and Social Services and Home Affairs and Immigration was also introduced.
Exceptional cases will include persons seeking medical treatment, essential services like humanitarian assistance, truck drivers bringing food and other essential commodities, Namibians returning among others.
Compulsory screening will be conducted for verification and quarantine imposed where necessary.
All leisure, business and social travel like for instance tourists were also suspended, while Namibians residing in other countries who are considering visiting Namibia have been encouraged to postpone such visits.
In order to facilitate work, international meetings should either be attended by officials from Namibian diplomatic missions abroad or by participating with the aid of video or teleconferencing.
The Cabinet further directed that all international scheduled flights, private chartered flights, only land at the Hosea Kutako or the Walvis Bay International Airports.
That all scheduled passenger flights, including private chartered flights to and from countries where there is active local transmission, be temporarily suspended for 30 days with immediate effect.
This suspension is exclusive of cargo and emergency flights to and from Namibia.
It was further instructed that strict disinfection of aircrafts be conducted and training of airport staff on infection prevention and control and the provision of appropriate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) be carried out.
The Cabinet also ordered that mandatory screening for COVID-19 be conducted at all points of entry into the country.
Thermo guns will be placed at all checkpoints and roadblocks for screening of inland travellers and all returning Namibians and permanent residents arriving from countries at high risk or from affected countries will be subjected to supervised self-quarantine for 14 days.
The Cabinet further directed that South African borders, including air travel, will remain open to serve as points of entry for Namibians returning home and exit points for visitors from Namibia, and to facilitate trade between the two countries.
With regard to the uniformed forces, the Cabinet directed that deployment of multi-disciplinary professionals like health professionals, logistics and other professionals from the Namibian Defence Force, the Namibian Police and Correctional Services compliment their counterparts at the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the National Health Emergency Management Committee and funds to be availed for training, equipment and materials.
Correctional officers, court officials, police and City Police will be issued with the necessary infection prevention materials when conducting their duties.
All court hearings will be conducted without the attendance of members of the public, while all pending matters will be postponed in absentia for 30 days.
Separate detection facilities will be provided for new and incoming accused persons or suspects before admission, while decongestion procedures will be implemented at police cells.
Visits to police cells and correctional facilities will be restricted to a limited number of family members for a period of 30 days.
With regard to health facilities, Cabinet decided that immediate reporting of all suspected cases from both State and private health facilities using a set case definition, as well as taking specimens and packaging according to the set standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Introduction of triage system and mandatory screening at all health facilities in the country and that the Ministry of Health and Social Services coordinates the provision of Personal Protective Clothing/Equipment to all ports of entry officials; include private facilities (UNAM and NUST) and other allied health service sectors in the response depending on the need.
All health care works to refer and apply relevant sections of the Public and Environmental Act No1 of 2015 regarding the notification, prevention and control of notifiable diseases.
With regards to the General Public, the Cabinet decided for a period of 30 days following the adoption of this measure, large public gatherings of not more than 50 people be suspended, schools, religious gatherings, customary weddings, funerals, and all parades for uniformed forces to be suspended until further notice.
For non-COVID-19 related funerals, families and organisers are strongly advised to promote hand washing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing at the event; advise mourners to wear masks when coming to all activities related to the funeral; feaths and funerals related to COVID-19 will be handled by the government with psychosocial support to the family.
Following the adoption of this measure, owners of public transport vehicles to provide hand sanitisers and masks to all their clients or passengers and enforce the laws on overloading strictly.
For a period of 30 days following the adoption of this measure, precautionary measures to be put in place during livestock auctions so as to prevent transmission of the virus in line with the directive on minimising mass gatherings as determined by relevant authorities and stakeholders and for a period of 30 days following the adoption of this measure, trade fairs, sports events and demonstrations to be postponed.
Accommodation establishments throughout the country to provide sanitiser and masks for all staff, education for guests on own protective measures; having full travel history of the guests and next destination.
These establishments also required to contact health authorities immediately when they notice guest is ill, especially with symptoms related to COVID-19; adopt and implement WHO guidelines in the workplace and the prevention of COVID-19, including training of staff members of accommodation establishments on appropriate infection prevention and control measures.
Water supply to communities is key to the prevention of COVID-19 and service providers are urged to make sure that water is available to the public, through water tanker services and other means.
The provision of water supply at informal settlements and other strategic places through water tankers to be scaled up; public awareness messages and campaigns should be intensified using all media avenues and platforms to reach community members in all region.
Shops, shopping malls and supermarkets to put measures in place to ensure and enhance hygiene at all times to protect all clients and customers such as the provision of alcohol-based hand sanitisers and face masks for employees.
The Cabinet directed that with respect to Economic Related Resolutions; offices, ministries and agencies should request their respective State-owned Enterprises to explore the possible impact of the coronavirus on their business.
Namibia will engage South Africa as a matter of urgency on the reciprocity of visa arrangements for business people and on the exit and entry points that should not be closed to allow for the flow of trade and further mitigate shortage of supplies and consumable goods to Namibia.
It was further directed that owners of shopping should make sanitisers available to the customers, especially at the entrances of the shops.
Cattle auctions should be allowed to continue provided that the number of people is limited to the traders and that no children should be allowed at the auctions.
The Ministry of Finance and Bank of Namibia must conduct a thorough impact assessment of the COVID-19 on the economy, as well as, on the financial stability and the outcome should be presented at the next meeting of Ministerial Committee of the Economic Sectors, and that the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME development should implore upon the cosmetic industry to invest on manufacturing of sanitisers and other protective products to address the impact of COVID-19.