The number of patients who have recovered from the coronavirus in the country is on the up, with 1 648 given the all clear at the weekend, while the total recovery rate stood at 67%. According to the latest figures released by the health ministry yesterday, 6 543 patients have recovered from Covid-19, leaving the country with 3 075 active cases and 101 deaths. The cumulative confirmed cases in Namibia are 9 719.
The current state of emergency expires this week Thursday and all indications are that there would be a continued easing of restrictions, thereby paving the way for the gradual reopening of the economy, while also adopting a cautious approach.
President Hage Geingob last week extended the stage three state of emergency restrictions for five days until this Thursday.
“We are aware that our best intended responses to the pandemic have had an adverse effect on livelihoods and our economy. But these necessary measures have helped shield many Namibians from experiencing severe effects on their health and livelihoods. This is a complex social, economic and health challenge, one that has induced public discussions on how best to overcome the myriad of challenges we face,” said Geingob.
Government will in the meantime also allow locals to travel in and outside the country via Hosea Kutako International Airport, but subject to quarantine at own cost upon return.
The night curfew has also been changed to between 22h00 and 05h00 countrywide. Previously it was between 20h00 and 05h00.
However, the hospitality industry has highlighted concerns over the listing of Namibia as a high-risk destination, which has also impacted the tourism revival initiative that resulted in the reopening of Hosea Kutako International Airport early this month.
The Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN) CEO, Gitta Paetzold, yesterday told New Era that uncertainty around the state of emergency and the classification of the country as a high-risk destination were causing huge hesitancy and limited appetite for long-haul travel.
She said Namibia has not been chosen as a low-risk country by some European countries, despite the government amending its tourism revival initiative protocols, including a negative test prior to boarding and a re-test five days after arriving in the country.
South Africa has been removed by Switzerland from the list of high-risk countries effective today due to declining infection rates.
“The tourism sector is just as anxious as the rest of the nation for the next step, come Thursday 17 September and the end of Namibia’s state of emergency,” she said.
“We sincerely hope that it will officially mark the end of the current strangulation of the travel trade. While the international travel ban has caused huge hardship on tourism, the current local lockdown restrictions from and to the centre of the country have further compounded tourism’s demise, with many businesses very near the end of the road.” According to the World Tourism Organisation September 2020 report on Covid-19 Related Travel Restrictions – a Global Review for Tourism, as of 1 September 2020, a total of 115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) have eased travel restrictions, confirming an upward trend to facilitate the restart of international tourism.
Tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said the state of emergency itself will come to an end on 17 September and the announcement by the President coincided with that.
“Unless parliament extends it further most activities will fall back to normal except those that can be restricted by normal legislation without Article 26 of Chapter 4 of the Republic’s Constitution,” he said.
University of Namibia senior lecturer in the department of economics, Omu Kakujaha-Matundu observed there is so much uncertainty at the moment.
“No one knows what to expect on Thursday when current measures on the state of emergency lapse. Extension of state of emergency is a possibility or perhaps under a new name like state of disaster,” he said.
Possibly, he said, Namibia can expect a pick-up in tourist numbers by mid-2021 should an effective Covid-19 vaccine be found.
He said the economic conditions in home countries of potential tourists should also improve to allow them to start travelling.
“As for business travel don’t expect much under the current conditions. Virtual meetings will be the thing for a long time under the new normal. So, most of last Friday, 11 September’s pronouncements were just wishful thinking. But it is better to test the waters rather than folding your arms and wait. I think you are right in terms of countries that have opened up borders. I think still very few European and North American countries, if none, will allow airlines in and out of Africa,” he maintained.
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani said his party would not support another extension of the state of emergency.