New Covid-19 health regulations announced

Otis Daniels_Finck
The current Covid health regulations are due to expire at midnight on 15 January.

The minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula announced new health measures for the period from 16 January to 15 February. Should the situation deteriorate, the measures may be reviewed at an earlier date.

The most noteworthy change is that fully vaccinated Namibians, permanent residents and truck drivers will no longer be required to present a negative PCR test result upon entry into Namibia. “They can enter the country at any time with a valid and authentic vaccination card. For all other categories of travellers, including truck drivers who are not fully vaccinated, the validity of a negative PCR Covid-19 test results remains 72 hours from time of the collection of the specimen to the time the individual presents themselves at the point of entry into Namibia,” he explained.

Other measures

The number of attendees at public gatherings remains limited to 200 people. Shangula reminded that public gatherings offer fertile ground for Covid-19 transmission and that if the venue where an event is taking place is small, the organisers must ensure the maintenance of the minimum physical distance and adjust the number of attendees accordingly.

Regulations related to education are retained without change. Educational institutions are allowed to operate at full capacity. Schools that are not equipped to operate at full capacity, should make their own internal arrangements to adhere to the Covid-19 prevention protocols such as rotational or alternate attendance of classes by learners. The health and education ministries will continue to engage to find the best balance between adherence to the prevention measures and the provision of quality education.

Measures related to the sale of liquor are retained without change. Business owners must continue to operate in line with the provisions of their business licenses. Business owners of restaurants, bars, kapana outlets, hair salons and others must enforce the compliance with Covid-19 protocols by employees such as the strict wearing of masks. It is also the duty of the clients to demand the wearing of masks by waitresses, hairdressers and other service providers. The wearing of masks by all in public space remains a mandatory requirement in Namibia.

The total number of spectators at the sporting event should not exceed 200 people. The number of spectators should remain aligned with the regulation on public gatherings, where the limit is 200 persons per event.

Measures related to public transport remain unchanged.

Burials

In line with the evolving scientific evidence, the rituals related to burials of persons who succumbed to Covid-19 and those who died due to other causes will proceed in the same manner, but with due regard to infection control measures when a Covid-19 positive body is handled by health care workers and undertaker personnel. Physical contact with the remains of a person who had Covid-19 by a person not trained in infection prevention and control such as a member of the public or family members is strictly forbidden. The standard operating procedures with regard to burials will be adjusted accordingly.

The number of persons permitted at memorial services and burial sites should not exceed 200 persons as per the regulations and all prevention protocols should be strictly enforced so that there is no need to revert back to the time when the burials of people who have succumbed to Covid-19 have to be strictly regulated in order to contain the spread of the virus.

The minister also emphasised that exhumation of the remains of those who passed on due to Covid-19 for the purpose of reburial at the preferred burial site is possible. All lawful procedures should be followed in case this is opted for. The first step is to approach the court to authorise the exhumation.

Testing for travellers

Non-Namibians who arrive with PCR test results older than 72 hours and are not in possession of a de-isolation certificate, will be denied entry in the country. Namibians who arrive without a valid PCR test result or a de-isolation certificate will be subjected to a PCR test at their own cost at the port of entry and will be quarantined at their own cost. Such a traveller will be released from quarantine if the PCR results are negative.

Namibia citizens and permanent residence permit holders who present positive PCR test results at points of entry may be allowed to proceed to the final destination and be subjected to isolation at own cost or to supervised home isolation provided that they have obtained approval for such supervised home isolation from the responsible officials Ministry of Health and Social Services.

During the 38th public health briefing, the health ministry proposed some measures to understand the extent of Omicron distribution in Namibia. These included random testing of travellers arriving in Namibia, and further subjecting the positive samples to genome sequencing.

“It is now clear that the Omicron variant is widely present in the community, and therefore random testing will not be implemented as it will not add any value to the pandemic response. The situation will however be closely monitored and this may be revisited if the need arises,” said Shangula.

The measures related to the use of Covid-19 rapid antigen tests are retained without change. There are several of these test products on the market. Shangula said it is important to ensure that the products approved for use are validated by the health ministry.

“We have noted with concern that some service providers are inflating prices. It is unethical to cash in on the misery of others,” the minister warned.