By: Kelvin Chiringa
President Hage Geingob is now set to brief the nation on the new Covid-19 measures this Tuesday at 15h00 at the back of intense speculation that he might opt to or not lock down the economy.
Namibia has started to see an escalation of Covid-19 cases with a series of re-infections, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The President was meant to address the nation on the 15th of December 2021, but his early briefing has added more speculation that he might act on his warning he issued a few days ago.
Geingob tersely warned that if compliance to regulations did not improve and the pandemic situation degenerated, he would not hesitate to take drastic measures.
“And therefore, if we think it’s endangering the lives of our citizens, we will not hesitate to call you tomorrow even if we get more information to take drastic action. But who is happy to punish people? It shouldn’t look like a punishment. It shouldn’t be a punishment.
“We are trying to educate to say that this disease is bad, let’s voluntarily cooperate, but if people don’t want to hear that and endanger the lives of others, we have to take action. That’s the idea, but not a drastic action, not a (rushed) action. Not to panic in the face of danger. When we take action, it will be in the interest of the country…, country, not particular individuals, country,” he said.
However, ahead of the announcement, Monday’s Covid stats were much lower than the weekend tally.
The health ministry announced 241 new positive cases from 1 302 results in the last 24 hours reporting cycle, representing an 18.5% positivity ratio.
The ministry highlighted that the sex distribution is 129 males and 112 females, ranging from six (6) months to seventy-five (75) years.
The confirmed cases are 12 learners, eight health care workers, seven students and two teachers.
Eight cases have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 37 are fully vaccinated.
“One hundred and ninety-six (196) cases have not been vaccinated. We are reporting one hundred and sixty-two (162) new recoveries as follow: one hundred and fifty-six (156) from the Erongo region, five (5) from ||Kharas region and one (1) from the Otjozondjupa region.
“The number of active cases is three thousand three hundred and ninety-two (3 392). Seventy-two (72) cases are hospitalized, of which three (3) are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Seven (7) of the hospitalized cases are fully vaccinated. All cases in ICU are not vaccinated,” said the ministry.
To Lockdown or not to Lockdown?
Theo Klein, from brokerage firm Simonis Storm, said while there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the Omicron variant, they expect the President to put in place various social restrictions as opposed to a blanket lockdown.
“Certain restrictions that we expect which could potentially come into play would be limiting the number of people at social gatherings, such as weddings and funerals. Of course, with the festive season, many gatherings are expected to take place.
“And then maybe to put in place a curfew might also help curb crime to some extent throughout Namibia as we know crime typically picks up over the festive season. And then lastly, we could potentially see a ban on alcohol sales or at least alcohol sales being limited to specific periods.”
From the official opposition, lawmaker Nico Smit has cautioned against a lockdown.
“I don’t think it is the most sensible thing to do. Not at this point. Is there any proof that this virus is being spread in certain ways? Are the people of Windhoek moving out and carrying this virus to other regions and towns?
“So, you must have a reason why you lockdown. You can’t just lockdown for the sake of locking down. If you have the increase of these cases predominantly in Windhoek, what use would it be to lock down the whole country? We should adhere to the normal regulations,” he said.
Fitness trainer Atlast Musasa from Genesis Fitness Namibia said a shutdown of gyms would be detrimental to business, seeing that the industry is still reeling from the effects of the last lockdown.
He said the President could be well advised to keep gyms open, safe-guard employment, and enforce crowd restrictions.
“For people’s immune system to remain strong, they need to stay active. Gyms are important places where people’s immune systems are being boosted because we teach people to stay healthy.
“In as much as revenues are concerned, many people are employed at gyms, and that’s where they get their bread and butter from. The President can try to reduce the numbers and make sure that all the gyms are operating according to rules and regulations,” he said.
Hospitality Association of Namibia’s (HAN) chairperson, Janet Averia Wilson Moore, said a lockdown would be detrimental for tourism.
“I think they are going to take precautions on the gathering numbers or the curfews,” she said.