New Covid regulations explained

Curbing the spread

21 June 2021 | Health

Dr Kalumbi Shangula; Health minister; “Increased hospitalizations are placing immense pressure on the healthcare system…”

Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula explained the newly announced regulations in detail. This follows after reports that in terms of Covid-19 testing, Namibia is ranked as number 2 in Africa.

“Namibia has a testing ratio of 94 persons per 1 000 population. With the addition of genome sequencing capabilities, testing also allows us to identify the type of variants circulating in our country. We did not have this capacity at the peak of the second wave in December last year.”

The highest number of positive cases in a single day was recorded at 683 on 25 December 2020, as compared to 1 432 new cases recorded on 11 June 2021.

On 25 December 2020, a total of 224 people were hospitalized, with 36 in ICU, while on 13 June 2021, a total of 374 were hospitalized of which 68 were in ICU.

The mortality rate has also increased 6-fold, from 16 deaths per week in December, to 83 deaths per week on average in June.
The minister said that these numbers are alarming. “Increased hospitalizations are placing immense pressure on the healthcare system, with respect to available staff, facilities, equipment, supplies and commodities. There is an observed high demand for oxygen and personal protective equipment. Consistent and high quality supply of oxygen is critical to saving lives.”

He added that the increasing number of new infections and hospitalization of patients presenting with severe to critical Covid-19, means that there is increased pressure on available high care and intensive care units both at private and public health facilities.
“The occupancy rate in most Covid-19 isolation and Intensive Care Units (ICUs), both in public and private sector ranges between 67% and 100% on any given day.”

REGULATIONS

The minister explained that effective restriction to the capital cannot be achieved without including the Okahandja and Rehoboth Local Authority Areas, adding that commuting for work within and between these local authorities is permitted.

The following regulations will be enforced:
• The wearing of masks remains mandatory.

• Public gatherings have been limited to ten people per event. Indoor events may not be held continuously for longer than two hours at a time. Organisers of funerals must limit the number of attendees to not more than 10 persons. Food items served during these events must be strictly on a take away basis.

• Schools and all institutions of high learning in the restricted local authority areas must transition to e-learning and hybrid teaching modes for the period of 14 days.

• Workshops and training meetings in the restricted areas are limited to emergency and Covid-19 related activities only. No meals may be served at such meetings to prevent further spread of Covid-19 infection. Organisers and attendees are advised to limit the duration of these gatherings to not more than two hours per session.

• Traditional authorities must engage their communities to amend cultural practices, which are contrary to this restriction, especially during the funeral vigils and wakes, whether it is before or after the funeral.

• The sale and purchase of liquor from all establishments is permitted from 09:00 to 18:00, Monday to Saturday, on take-away basis only, while people are not allowed to congregate at hotels, restaurants and guesthouses to drink alcohol. The sale of liquor on take-away basis will mean that members of the public will be able to buy liquor but consumption must take place at home or at other private location, while businesses continues to generate income.

• Gambling houses, casinos, betting houses and night clubs are deemed to be high-risk under the circumstances and will not be permitted to operate.
• The selling of kapana may continue, albeit on a take away basis only.

• Managers and employers are encouraged to introduce shifts at workplaces to decongest workplaces and limit interactions amongst staff.

• The prohibition of contact sports as well as the prohibition of spectators at live sports events will continue. Training for contact sport may continue in accordance with regulations. Netball is added to the definitions as a contact sport. Gyms and fitness facilities shall be closed during the restriction period.

• Entry into Namibia by air or road is permitted. Travellers who have made prior arrangements can proceed to their destinations. Tourists who wish to depart Namibia through or traversing via the restricted areas (by road or by air) will be granted passage on providing relevant proof.

Inspector Illeni Shapumba, Erongo community affairs unit commander said that the various station commanders in the Erongo region can provide travel permits for those who wish to travel to or through the restricted areas.
“Authorized officers to issue travel permits in Erongo region are Chief Inspector Patrick Muhita (Station Commander - Walvis Bay police station), Chief Inspector Moses Aebeb (Station Commander - Swakopmund police station), and Inspector Aino Imukusi (Station Commander - Karibib police station).”

However, Shapumba cautioned that since the situation is serious, people are strongly discouraged from undertaking unnecessary travels to the restricted areas. “Permits will only be issued for medical emergencies or critical grounds. Those that intend to pass through the restricted area should provide supportive documents. We will not compromise!”

• All public transport operators may only load passengers to half the capacity of the vehicle. This measure applies to public transport in all parts of the country.

• Individuals who have been swabbed and are suspected of being infected with Covid-19 must remain at home and quarantine after swabbing until their results are released. Where a person becomes ill, they must seek medical attention immediately. Where a person tests positive but is asymptomatic, he or she must remain in isolation for a period of ten days and resume normal activities after receive a Certificate of Discharge from Isolation. These certificates are issued by the health ministry.

• Due to a high number of active cases, there is additional pressure and demand on the contact tracing teams. The public is urged to contact the Covid-19 Call Centre by calling 0800 100 100 to report any person who may fall ill as a COVID-19 suspected case. It is important that expectant women at term, the elderly and people with comorbidities who are Covid-19 suspects be isolated for close monitoring by health personnel until it is confirmed that they are out of danger. All newly confirmed cases who live in a house with person older than 50 years and above or with comorbidities must be isolated at a non-health facility.

• Standard Operating Procedures will be enhanced to ensure visits to old age homes are restricted. Employees at the old age home are encouraged to get vaccinated. SOP’s will be enhanced to ensure that visits to mental health institutions are restricted. Employees at mental health institutions are encouraged to get vaccinated.

• All eligible Namibians are encouraged to get vaccinated.

Shangula said that the ministry had added 122 Covid-19 beds which include high care and ICU beds at the Walvis Bay state hospital and 26 beds at the Swakopmund state hospital.

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