Minor amendments to Covid-19 regulations

13 January 2021 | Health

The measures announced on 23 December 2020 to control and prevent Covid-19 lapse at midnight tonight, with health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula saying earlier today that the situation has since worsened since his last announcement.
“It is imperative that we strengthen our response and consolidate on our achievements. There is a continuing and rapid rise in Covid-19 confirmed cases. Evidence demonstrates that the second wave has now far exceeded and eclipsed the first wave.”

Increasing numbers
The minister said that many state and private hospitals in the country have reached near full or full capacity and some are unable to admit patients due to lack of space, especially in terms of intensive care beds and facilities.
“The situation is affecting and has been experienced in most regions. Together with the growing number of cases, healthcare workers are being infected and have to be demobilized.”
Namibia has so far recorded 1 350 healthcare workers who have been infected with Covid-19, of which six lost their lives.
“This is worrisome. More staff are, and will be required, to manage Covid-19 patients and clients,” the minister emphasised.
From 26 October to 22 November 2020, the average Covid-19 positivity ratio in Namibia stood at 4.7%. “This has increased five-fold for the period 28 December 2020 to 3 January 2021, where the positivity ratio rose to 24% on average. During the past two weeks, 6,402 newly confirmed cases out of 26,191 test results were recorded.”

Covid variant
The minister said that while it is not confirmed yet, there is a high level of suspicion that the more transmissible and virulent variant of the coronavirus is now circulating in Namibia.
“Our scientists are currently with genome sequencing of samples to determine whether the new variant is present in Namibia. The exponential rise in new cases indicates that there is active transmission of the virus in the community, affecting all age groups. For high-risk population groups, the infection is life-threatening.
“The implementation of stricter public health measures is aimed at mitigating the spread of Covid-19 in the community and stem the burden on our hospitals to ensure that the provision of essential health services is not disrupted,” Shangula said.
The minister said that measures should be implemented immediately as many people are travelling across the country from their holidays to resume work and school activities.
He also expressed concern that there are those who are still enjoying themselves and participating in social gatherings, at events such as braais, parties, bars, night clubs, and casinos around the country, without adhering to the preventive measures and health protocols.
The minister added that the risk of transmission may also be fuelled by large events such as the reopening of schools and institutions of higher learning.

New measures
After consultations and taking into account both epidemiological and economic indicators, the following measures are introduced.
These measures take effect on 13.01.2020 at 23:59 and will continue for 21 days until 3 February 2021 at 24:00.
• Public gatherings are maintained at the current maximum of 50 persons at any given time. Registers must be kept, and attendees must sanitise and maintain a distance of not less than 2 meters between them. Public gatherings may not exceed two hours or continue beyond 20:00.
• A nationwide restriction of movement is maintained from 21:00 to 04:00.
• The sale of alcohol and hours of operation for on-site consumption (shebeens, bars, nightclubs, gambling houses, casinos and restaurants) remains as per current arrangements from 09:00 - 20:00 Mondays to Saturdays. No sale of alcohol is allowed on Sundays and Public Holidays.
• The correct wearing of face masks continues to be a mandatory requirement in all public settings, including in vehicles, aircraft and other means of public transport.
• Salons, beauty spas and fitness centres: Salons, beauty parlours, hairdressers, pools, spas, gyms, studios and fitness centres shall practice public health measures. Both the service providers and the clients must wear masks, sanitize and maintain the prescribed distance between them.
• All indoor and outdoor dining tables at restaurants must be positioned in such a manner that they are separated by a distance of not less than two meters.
• Passengers in public transportation vehicles, including taxis and buses, are allowed maximum carrying capacity. Public health measures (wearing of masks, sanitizing) shall be maintained throughout the voyage. Operators must plan the trip in such a way that public transport arrives at the destination before 21:00.
• All non-urgent medical procedures will be postponed. Visitations to hospitalised patients is limited to not more than two close relatives per visit. Visitation time is limited to not more than ten minutes per visit. All health services shall continue within the prescriptions of these regulations.
• Indefinite delays in re-opening of schools will have a detrimental effect on the learners. After extensive consultations all schools shall open as previously announced.
• All sports are allowed, but with no spectators. The number of persons attending a sports event may not exceed 50.
• All non-Namibian travellers must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result that is not older than 7 days (168) hours at Port of Entry. They will not be required to be quarantined or be subjected to another test including when exiting Namibia. The period of 168 hours is calculated from the time the sample was taken. Namibian citizens may enter Namibia with or without any result. In the absence of any result, they will be subjected to a 7-days quarantine and testing at own cost.
• The period within which the human remains of persons whose deaths are attributed to Covid-19 is seven days. Such burials are conducted by government officials in conjunction with the families and in line with strict requirements for effective infection control and prevention in order to reduce the risk of transmission of infection. Normal rituals before, during and after the burial are not prohibited provided that there is no risk of exposure to the attendees.
• The Public and Environmental Health Act makes provision for stiff penalties in the event of transgression of its provisions. The maximum penalty under this Act is N$100 000 or 10 years imprisonment. The minister appealed on the public to practice voluntary compliance in order to make the imposition of penalties unnecessary.
• Vulnerable persons (those above 60 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, expectant women, and children below the age of 10) are advised to stay at home, except for attending to essential requirements and for health purposes.