WALVIS BAY – The business community at Walvis Bay yesterday welcomed the announcement by President Hage Geingob to allow economic activity to return to the coastal town despite strict travel restrictions.
The Erongo region has migrated to stage three as from midnight.
However, travelling between towns in the region is permitted, with the exception of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis.
Walvis Bay currently has 27 Covid-19 cases while two people have tested positive for the virus in Swakopmund.
“The President indeed considered the long-term effects of the lockdown on residents who also face economical challenges that resulted in the non-adherence of regulations,” said
Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry Walvis Bay president Johnny Doeseb.
“The reality is that we will have to live with Covid-19 for a while and should be ready with sufficient treatment facilities and healthcare. It is also very important that we balance the social and economic factors of the region, especially Walvis Bay, as our people will need assistance in terms of basic needs. All sectors that can, should see how we can help the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Walvis Bay-based businessman and owner of Casa Mia Hotel Andreas Maschaitz was also relieved with the government decision to allow Walvis Bay to migrate to stage three. “Retrenchments were the last resort for me, so all my 32 employees kept the business down during lockdown,” he said.
The general manager of Blue Whale Boutique Hotel, Liesl Losper, also welcomed the decision by the governmment.
“I am happy that the businesses can open, but at the same time stricter safety and control measures need to be applied. As soon as we heard the announcement by the President, we started training our staff once again in making sure that every surface is sanitised, and the measures already in place are applied. We are going to provide our customers with the best services, in spite of the circumstances we find ourselves in.”
President Hage Geingob yesterday said the decision to move the region to stage three was taken in consideration of the adverse effects caused by the full lockdown on business, households and livelihoods.
He said the authorities also considered the region’s capacity to respond to the rising numbers of new infections.
Inter-travelling between the three towns will however be allowed but travelling from them to the rest of the country is highly discouraged and will be restricted to emergency situations only, including essential service providers.
“Bearing in mind that the disease does not move by itself but through human carriers, all residents are strongly urged to avoid unnecessary travel during this period, and allow authorities to conduct active case search at these towns, in an effort to determine the extent of the spread of the disease into the community,” Geingob said.
Essential service providers and truck drivers will be permitted to travel into and out of the region on the basis of an authorised permit.
To avoid local truck drivers mixing with cross-border truck drivers, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Arandis must create separate truck ports and parking areas, the head of state further said.
Public gatherings in the region will be restricted to 50 persons with the exception of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, which will be restricted to gatherings of 10 people.
Schools across the region that meet the Covid-19 compliance standards are allowed to proceed with face-to-face learning for Grade 11 and 12 learners.
However, schools in the three towns still remain suspended for the next 16 days.
Erongo will be in stage 3 for a period of 14 days starting today until 6 July.
According to the health minister,Kalumbi Shangula, the situation can change at any given time depending on how the town deals with the increasing number of cases.
“The observance period will be monitored on a weekly basis and may be reduced or extended, subject to changes in the country’s epidemiological situation,” Shangula explained.
Partial lift... Economic activity will return to Walvis Bay and other parts of the Erongo region.
Photo: Eveline de Klerk