WALVIS BAY – Government yesterday introduced additional measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the Erongo region, including banning movement among Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Arandis as new infections surge.
The new measures have not been welcomed by the transport business owners, who said it would have a devastating impact on their livelihoods.
Local taxi driver Pieter Andreas, who operates between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, said the ban puts them in a difficult position, as they have daily clients who commute between the two towns.
“Our income is already slashed, as we can only load three customers. We know these measures are put in place to ensure the safety of all people, but the effect they have on us makes it difficult to even pay rent or make money for fuel at least,” he said.
Bertha Muteka, who works at a supermarket in Swakopmund, also told New Era yesterday afternoon that she will have to find alternative accommodation at the town, as she will not be able to travel from Walvis Bay.
The outcry comes after President Hage Geingob yesterday announced that Erongo will remain in stage three for 28 days until 3 August, while the rest of the country maintains stage four. However, there is a special dispensation for Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, where the strict movement of people into and out of the three towns would be reinforced, except the transportation of essential and critical goods and services as well as medical emergencies.
“Public transport from and into the three restricted local authority areas is prohibited for the duration of this special dispensation,” health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said yesterday.
“Any person leaving the Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis local authority areas to any part of the country, apart from providers of good and services, will be quarantined for a period of 14 days at own cost.”
Schools in the restricted areas may also not resume face-to-face instruction.
“Learners who find themselves in the restricted areas will not be permitted to travel out of that restricted area to other parts of the country, owing to the inherent risks,” said Shangula.
Walvis Bay remains the country’s epicentre of the coronavirus with over 300 people testing positive for the virus at the harbour town. Yesterday alone, 72 new infections were reported at the town as the country’s total tally spiked to 485 cases and 25 recoveries.
Community transmission at Walvis Bay has particularly been a big concern, further putting pressure on the local public healthcare system.
“Isolation of positive Covid-19 cases in terms of locations must be done in ways that do not introduce or increase harm to the community. This may include alternative isolation locations, including private facilities,” said Shangula.
“The ministry will build in a level of flexibility in the quarantine of contacts, including the locations of such quarantine facilities, in ways that do not introduce or increase harm to the community. This may include home-based quarantine when safe conditions for such quarantine can be established and verified against a standardised checklist.”
Situation closely monitored
Meanwhile, President Geingob yesterday said government was closely monitoring the situation as it unfolds countrywide, as well as the effectiveness of measures being implemented to combat the pandemic.
“The evidence before us reveals that Namibia is dealing with two very distinct Covid-19 situations: the one prevailing at Walvis Bay and the rest of the country. It is, therefore, necessary to apply rational and targeted interventions to respond effectively to both situations. The rising number of cases at Walvis Bay warrants additional containment measures to slow the rate of transmission and prevent the disease from spreading beyond the three local authority areas,” he said.
“To decongest informal settlements at the town, the ministry of urban development and the municipalities will have to identify suitable venues or facilities with adequate provision of water and ablution facilities, where residents can be temporarily relocated.”