President Hage Geingob cautioned government would impose stricter measures to combat a surge of new Covid-19 cases if the public continues to disregard public health measures, especially now that 18 cases of the Omicron strain have been detected in Namibia.
In the last week, Namibia has recorded nearly 700 new Covid-19 positive cases.
However, only 26 have been hospitalised, with two in intensive care units.
Namibia struggles with low levels of vaccination – and the third wave during June and July 2021 lost about 3 000 people to Covid-19. The country has had to discard expired vaccines worth millions of dollars, and the expiry dates of more doses loom, while Namibians shows a lack of trust in the vaccines.
“If we don’t change our habits, the government will be left with no choice and with no option but to take stricter measures ahead of the festive season. It is not a desirable course of action. However, if the cases continue to rise, and the citizens don’t change their behaviour, it will be the only sensible thing to do,” said Geingob.
He said, before the discovery of the Omicron variant, days were recorded without any cases of deaths – and at times, no new cases were reported.
These actions allowed the country to keep new infections extremely low, and the death rates also declined accordingly for three months.
Another briefing is expected on 15 December 2021 on the way forward, with the President saying if the situation continues to get worse, he will address the nation earlier. “The global fight against Covid-19 demands multilateral collaboration, coordination and consultations between nations – and not divisions between regions and citizens. It is in that vein that I call for an end to unnecessary travel bans, which undermine economic recovery, and are not rooted in scientific rigour,” he said.
The pandemic has already caused untold suffering, and the economic consequences of another lockdown could be far-reaching.
Thousands of Namibians have already lost their employment in the last two years due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.
President of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Bisey /Uirab said the only solution to control the spread of the virus is people getting vaccinated and at the same time adhering to Covid-19 protocols.
“When things are tough like this, we must make sure we get vaccinated and take things seriously. Issues around social distancing are critical. The way we interact socially, especially during these times when we gather as families and friends, we must be mindful this disease is among us,” he told New Era.
Uirab said government would resort to measures unfavourable to citizens if things get out of hand. “As businesses, we don’t want another lockdown. We need to have that balance between saving lives and ensuring that livelihood and work continues. Covid-19 had affected businesses in Namibia,” he added.
“It has caused unemployment, closure of businesses, retrenchments and tensions within societies. Nobody wants to live in an environment where there is a lot of tension. So, we must work as a nation to avoid this.”
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, around 13 000 Namibians have been retrenched; the tourism sector has been decimated, and many other businesses had to scale down. The managing director of the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) Matthias Ngwangwama said the situation on the ground is worrisome – not only to the tourism sector but for the entire world, as economic activities are severely affected, adding that stricter measures due to non-compliance of regulations will be the end of things.
“Traditionally, the current period is the time for domestic tourism. Most companies in the tourism industry, including NWR, capitalise on this period for some revenue,” he said.
Ngwangwama said: “It is true the current increase of Covid-19 cases is worrying. The numbers are there for all to see”.
He said, considering the lost revenue during the 2021 high season (from May to October), the December period was that of hope for potential revenue from the domestic market.
“Should cases continue to increase and stricter measures are imposed, that will probably be the final nail in the coffin of the struggling tourism industry,” stated Ngwangwama.