Following a recent massive increase in requests and to avoid further confusion, the industrialisation and trade ministry has clarified the difference between an Essential Service Certificate (ESC) and an Emergency Travel Permit (ETP).
An ESC, issued by the trade ministry, is provided to businesses classified as essential service providers to allow them to continue operating even after curfew hours but not to move out of restricted areas of Windhoek, Rehoboth and Okahandja.
On the other hand, an ETP is mainly issued by the police for travelling purposes, and the public is advised to request this document from their regional police station as the issuing institution.
The ETP typically refers to the transportation of human remains to other regions, emergency medical cases, transporting animal feeds, fetching children from school, returning from other towns and buying foodstuffs from nearby towns.
“ESCs issued by the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade primarily serve to ease the operations of essential service providers after curfew hours and not necessarily to move from one zone to the other, as this will still require one to have a travel permit,” stated trade ministry spokesman Elijah Mukubonda.
Mukubonda explained that the trade ministry began issuing new certificates for businesses recognised as essential service providers during the newly announced lockdown.
“However, there is a muddle from the public regarding the issuance of Essential Service Certificates, generally meant to allow continuation of business operations within acceptable perimeters during this difficult time of lockdown, vis-a-vis emergency travel permits that are majorly for travelling purposes,” said Mukubonda.
He continued that essential services providers refer to a class of occupations that have been legislated by the government to have special restrictions concerning labour actions, such as not being allowed to strike.
Some of the essential services in Namibia include – but not limited to – ambulance services, casualties services, operating theatres, intensive care unit services, hospital wards, laboratory services, pharmaceutical services, dental services, radiography services, physiotherapy services, mortuary services, medical services (including specialised services), and hospital kitchen services.
“That’s different from the situation of an individual wanting to travel for purposes of collecting their child from Windhoek because schools are closed. What they need, in this case, is a travel permit – not an essential service certificate. We are experiencing an enormous influx of people requesting essential service certificates (ESCs) for travelling purposes, mainly between zones, which is not supposed to be the case,” Mukubonda noted via a statement.
Moreover, the health ministry recently issued a communiqué, authorising several officers under the Public and Environmental Health Act to issue travel permits countrywide for between 1 July and 15 July.
These include police officers with station commander or higher rank – as designated by the inspector general of the Namibian Police – as well as executive directors or regional directors or staff members – as designated by the executive director or regional directors of government entities.
Additionally, the executive directors of agriculture, defence, education, tourism, health, industrialisation, higher education and Namibia Central Intelligence Agency may issue these travel permits.
“Conclusively, communication is aid and the right information at the right time saves lives. Media is now more than ever becoming both an essential and emergency service in addition to being critical in response to Covid-19. Having said that, media staff is regarded as essential service providers and are eligible to apply for essential service certificates. This is to enable them to continue to inform and educate the public on the development of the pandemic during the difficult time that we live in,” Mukubonda concluded.