The Namibia Tourism Board has jumped on board to denounce the latest decision by the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention to categorise Namibia as a high-risk country, arguing the ranking lacks scientific data.
The CDC moved Namibia to Level 3 “high-risk category” on Monday. Joining other countries in the same classification of Covid-19 are Guyana, Mongolia as well as St Kitts and Nevis.
Reacting to the CDC’s rating, NTB CEO Digu //Naobeb yesterday said the rating does to reflect the reality on the ground, as Namibia is a vast country. He contented concentration of the Namibian population is in the urban centres, whereas tourists are travelling to tourism destinations.
According to him, these centres, as far as tourism and attractions are concerned, are very sparsely populated and are outside urban centres.
“Therefore, I would not really be bothered if I am a traveller to Namibia because of the CDC rating. We have a natural social distancing. Even though we have a low vaccination rate, that rating is not for us as far as the tourism industry is concerned. It needs to be backed up with scientific information, geographic setting and distribution of this infection around the country to give a realistic picture. Just painting that infection rates are high is not more than enough because, in Namibia, high infection rates only happen in highly concentrated urban areas,” //Naobeb argued.
The level three “high” risk category is now the top rung in terms of the risk level. Level two is considered “moderate” risk, while level one is “low” risk. In April, the CDC overhauled its rating system for assessing Covid-19 risk for travellers.
The “level three: Covid-19 high” category now applies to countries that have had more than 100 cases per 100 000 residents in the past 28 days. CDC is using a baseline of total new Covid-19 cases per 100 000 population in the past seven days to determine the Covid-19 community level.
CDC looks at the combination of three metrics – new Covid-19 admissions per 100 000 population in the past seven days, the per cent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by Covid-19 patients and total new Covid-19 cases per 100 000 population in the past seven days – to determine the Covid-19 community level.
Namibia had previously been at level two. Level four, previously the highest risk category, is now reserved only for special circumstances, such as extremely high case counts, the emergence of a new variant of concern or health care infrastructure collapse.
Under the new system, no destinations have been placed at level four so far.
Further, //Naobeb maintained if one looks at the size of the Namibia population, which is about 2.5 million, compared to the land mass of the country, all these need to be equated in into criteria.
He argues visitors encounter interaction with local people at a low rate.
“That is what Namibia is known for, and we need to popularise it more often so people realise as much as the population has a high infected rate, compared to the land mass, we are well distributed. Therefore, tourists need not fear travelling to Namibia. We do not have such cases, where tourists who travelled to Namibia contracted or got infected with Covid. This tells us tourists are fully vaccinated or they take care of themselves very well,” he said.
Health executive director Ben Nangombe last week assured the classification should not be seen as if Namibia is not safe for tourists and travellers alike.
Nangombe said the classification could affect tourist arrivals to Namibia, but assured the Covid-19 situation is stabilising. He argued that Namibia is safe, saying if one considers the current epidemiology trends of Covid-19, the cases are falling. NTB assured tourists and visitors alike that hospitality establishments in Namibia, such as hotels and lodges, ensure health protocols are well executed.