Government has defended the reasons behind the further relaxation of Covid-19 regulations, saying the authorities have the best interests of Namibians at heart, and it’s not because of the upcoming Independence Day celebrations.
President Hage Geingob yesterday announced that the mandatory rule of wearing facemasks will be abolished, while public gatherings may increase from 500 to a maximum 1 000 as new Covid-19 infections sharply decline.
Effective 17 March until 15 April 2022, Namibians are not commanded to wear facemasks in public as the number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths declined markedly in recent weeks.
Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said the decision for the relaxation was done after taking into consideration whether the lives of Namibians would be at risk or not, and had nothing to do with any social event.
“The wearing of masks in a public place are no longer mandatory.
However, people who are in close settings, including in public transport, indoor public meetings where some of the attendees are not vaccinated, and other similar settings are encouraged to wear masks.
The physical distance of no less than one metre must be maintained at all times,” stressed Shangula.
Speaking during the 41st Covid-19 briefing at State House yesterday, the minister said over the past four weeks, the Covid-19 epidemic situation in Namibia has continued to show a remarkable decline in terms of the number of new Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Shangula said the relaxation of public health measures does not imply that the danger of Covid-19 infection is over.
“This positive trend provides a window of opportunity for the ministry of health, in particular, and the government to fast-track the implementation of different national priority interventions, especially those related to strengthening essential public healthcare services,” he stated.
With measured optimism and out of an abundance of caution, he said they are closely monitoring and observing the isolated clusters of Covid-19 infections around the country, especially in schools and other localities, as reported. As of 14 March 2022, Namibia recorded 157 449 Covid-19 cases, out of the 968 999 samples tested.
A total number of 155 286 recoveries were reported, translating into a recovery rate of 97.3%, a 3% increment from the last briefing. “Active cases have also decreased from 2 827 during the last briefing to 222. This is a significant reduction of 92.1% in active cases, indicating remarkably low transmission rates during the period under review.
Unfortunately, 19 lives were lost since the last briefing, bringing the number of deaths to 4 014 since the beginning of the pandemic. All deaths during the review period are of individuals who are not vaccinated,” informed Shangula. He warned that the country will soon enter the winter period when people tend to be closer together in enclosed settings without ventilation, which presents an ideal condition for the transmission of infections. During the briefing, President Hage Geingob said the reclassification of the outbreak to endemic should not give Namibians a false sense of security.
“We must continue to be vigilant and alert to further control the spread and upsurge in new cases. The magnitude of the challenge we continue to face is large, and we must be ready to mount an effective response,” he stated.
He added that a reprieve does not mean the end of the pandemic, “and there is still a need to continue caring for ourselves and the vulnerable members of our society who are more susceptible”.
“The abolishment of the mandatory face mask mandate does not mean the abolishment of common sense. On the contrary, common sense must continue to prevail. The government will continue to do its part and complete the new projects brought on stream to ensure our public health sector is sufficiently capacitated,” observed Geingob.