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By: Andrew Kathindi

The minister of international relations and cooperation Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah says that her office has engaged the United Kingdom over Namibia, being placed on a red travel list following the discovery of variant Omicron.

“The first country was the UK. Of course, we have contacted them. Of course, they informed us that the measures are to be temporary while the understanding how the new variant is moving,” she told The Villager.

The temporary ban comes as the UK added more southern African countries to its initial travel ban list, including Angola, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. 

“We hope this will be temporary, and very soon they will lift the ban because when the COVID-19 broke out, it was more challenging, now we have many vaccinated people in different parts of the world. At least, the reaction should not be the same as when there was no single person vaccinated,” she said.

She further said that it was unfortunate that Namibia was put on the red list in the first place as there has been no case discovered in Namibia.

“The whole action was taken hastily, even before the World health organization pronounced itself. We understand the importance of ensuring people’s health and saving their lives, but we also know we are part of the global village. It’s always important to share information quickly,” the international relations minister said.

She added that the ban impacts Namibians living outside the country, planning to come back and are now blocked.

Nandi-Ndaitwah further said the tourism industry is one of the important sectors to the economy and was picking up, and now the sector is back to square one.

She said that the genome sequencing and announcement of Omicron in South Africa were made in the spirit of the global village as sharing information is important for countries to know what is happening. 

“Over the past weeks, we have seen a surge of cases in Europe, but we never stop planes from coming. As if it’s to say it’s fine when the surge is in Europe but then it becomes a problem when it’s in Africa. I think it is very unfortunate the imbalance that exists and is one-sided.”

“We need to understand the global village and how to complement it. We don’t know how long COVID-19 will be with us, but if countries are starting to act in a way that doesn’t have international dimensions, and guidelines from WHO that has been given a responsibility to advise countries on how to move in such a situation, that is very unfortunate.”

The ban from the UK and other western countries comes as Angola has also closed off its borders in light of the discovery of the variant. On Sunday, Rwanda became the second African country to ban flights from southern Africa.

Quizzed on whether Namibia will be taking similar steps, Nandi-Ndaitwah said that at the moment, the status quo remains the same.

“At this point there are no such intentions have been brought to our attention. Of course, cabinet through the minister of health is monitoring the situation, and the minister of health is the principal advisor together with the scientists on what measures we should take regarding the pandemic and the new and upcoming variants.”

“Thus far, the status quo remains, but I cannot say it will remain indefinitely because it all depends on what advice we are getting from the experts in the area.”

According to the ministry of health and social services, sequencing results on Omicron are expected before Friday.

Tourism minister Pohamaba Shifeta said the travel bans were discrimination and without scientific evidence.

“The travel bans and restrictions imposed on countries from SADC region lack scientific basis and are unacceptable, discriminatory and in contradiction of guidance from the WHO. As we enter the festive season, this is a particularly crushing blow to our tourism industry and for the many lives and livelihoods that depend on it.”

On Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that while the country has banned flights from southern Africa, it will not ban all travel.

“We are not going to stop people travelling. I want to stress that we’re not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.”

Julia Heita

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