Some restrictions to remain in place

New normal

18 September 2020 | Health

Dr Kalumbi Shangula; health minister; “While the State of Emergency is lapsing, Covid-19 remains with us.”

Walvis Bay •[email protected]publikein.com.na

With the State of Emergency regulations coming to an end, a number of regulations will either remain in force or be discontinued.

Attorney General Festus Mbandeka said that the wearing of face masks remains mandatory, public gatherings are limited to 50 people and night clubs, casinos as well as shebeens can operate until 22:00 and serve alcohol on their premises.

“Travel restrictions and the 22:00 – 05:00 curfew is discontinued but passenger limitations for public transport remain in place. Contact sports are allowed, subject to health measures. Informal traders are also allowed to operate,” he said.

Face-to-face teaching will also continue as it is.

The minister of Justice Yvonne Dausab encouraged Namibians to not stop applying the measures set out. “Two laws, the Public Health Act and the Public and Environmental Health Act, will be used to guide Namibians on how to deal with the pandemic.”

The authority lies with the health minister to close certain businesses or stop certain operations if considered necessary.

“In terms of night clubs and shebeens only operating until 22:00, this is not because the virus is only active from 22:00, but with alcohol involved, the later it gets, the rowdier people can get,” Dausab said.

Churches can also operate but attendees are limited to 50 and less. The health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said that churches were never closed, but were only subject to public gathering restrictions.

Spending

Shangula said that during the Covid-19 State of Emergency, government allocated an amount of N$727 million to the ministry of health, which is spearheading the war against this invisible enemy.

“To date, 88% of this budget has been expended towards the recruitment of additional human resources for health, procurement of medical supplies and equipment, such as PPEs, pharmaceuticals, the construction of isolation facilities, and renovation of existing health facilities. These investments have significantly strengthened the capacities and preparedness to respond to the pandemic.”

Testing

The minister said that during the six-month period, the ministry exceeded the initial testing target of 25 000 people by more than 200% by the end of the State of Emergency.

“We have to date conducted a cumulative 84 688 first-time tests. During the response, we tested beyond the standard case definition, so as to reach more at-risk populations and we have increased data integrity in our efforts to establish community transmissions. Namibia’s testing coverage ratio is currently 32 per 1 000 people. South Africa has tested 61 per 1 000; the UK has tested 1.09 per 1 000 and Italy has tested 0.91 per 1 000.”

The minister said that the policy decision to quarantine and test all arrivals twice during the quarantine period was effective, as 72% of all cases diagnosed since 20 May 2020, were persons who were placed in quarantine facilities.

“By the end of the State of Emergency, we quarantined 13 010 people, at a cost to Government.”

Quarantine

Shangula said that the quarantine strategy has mitigated the spread of the disease into the communities.

“We urge all those placed in quarantine to continue to comply with regulations. As at today, we have managed to contain the Basic Reproductive Ratio, which is the number of secondary infections arising from a single individual who had tested positive, to less than 1. This key indicator means that, currently, in the majority of cases, one Covid-19 positive person is not transmitting the virus to more than one other person.”

Following the expiry of the State of Emergency the Covid-19 response will be implemented through new directives or regulations to be issued by the minister of health.
These will include, among others, matters related to: quarantine and isolation protocols; the removal and burial of bodies of persons who succumb to Notifiable Infectious Diseases; management of public gatherings; contact tracing; control of the movement of persons into affected areas; testing of persons; and the re-opening of Points of Entry and public transport by road or by air.

New normal

Under the ‘new normal’, Namibians must learn to live with the virus in their daily lives. Emphasis will be placed on information, public education and communication to foster behavioural change.

“The intensification of compliance, especially voluntary compliance with public health measures such as the wearing of facemasks in public, social and physical distancing, hand washing, sanitizing and reduction in the size of public gatherings, is our first line of defence.”

The minister said that government will continue to roll out expanded targeted testing.

“We will pursue the strategy of ‘source reduction’, which relies on enhanced contact tracing, quarantine and isolation of suspected and confirmed cases. We will augment patient management to ensure optimal care for both in- and outpatients.”

Government will also continue to invest in infrastructure development, specifically the expansion of isolation facilities, as well as the procurement of medical equipment and other supplies.

“This has already gone a long way by producing positive spin-offs towards the achievement of the overall objective of health systems strengthening.

Covid-19 success

Shangula said that government will also enhance psychosocial support to healthcare workers and affected families.

“The successes recorded so far in our Covid-19 national response and preparedness were only possible because the Namibian people joined and worked together to face this common enemy in unity. Going forward that will be the common denominator of our future success.”

The minister also emphasised that there is no substitute for unity.

“Whereas the State of Emergency will lapse on Thursday, Covid-19 remains with us. We must place the highest premium on unity because it has become truly indispensable. The responsibility for Covid-19 control has shifted from government to individuals, families and communities.”

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