By Kuzeeko Tjitemisa
Namibia will continue to keep its ports and harbours open to facilitate the free movement of commercial goods to its landlocked neighbours and beyond, President Hage Geingob said on Friday.
Geingob said this during a teleconference meeting convened by South African president and African Union (AU) chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa that brought together heads of states from Angola, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
"Covid-19 is a global pandemic and requires coordinated regional, Pan-African and global action.
During this difficult period, Namibia recognises how interdependent and how interconnected we are as neighbours," Geingob informed his fellow leaders.
To illustrate the point, he said a Namibian parliamentarian with family residing in South Africa had a bereavement and government-to-government coordination permitted her to attend the funeral in South Africa.
"We share northern and north-eastern borders with Angola, Zambia and Botswana, and we have to educate our people who are in some instances not aware that they have crossed borders," he said.
"Namibia will continue to keep ports and harbours open in order to facilitate the movement of goods to landlocked neighbours and beyond," he added.
Geingob said he is grateful for this virtual meeting of neighbouring countries and thanked his counterparts for the importance they attach to collective action to deal with the shared challenge of Covid-19.
Briefing fellow heads of states on Covid-19 in the country, Geingob said the first two cases of Covid-19 in Namibia were confirmed on 13 March 2020.
"We acted swiftly the next morning on 14 March to suspend outward and inbound flights to and from Doha, Qatar, Frankfurt, Germany and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On 17 March, we declared a state of emergency to contain the spread of Covid-19," Geingob said.
He said since 28 March 2020, the country had a stage 1 national lockdown, which commenced with the affected regions, Erongo and Khomas, including the contingent local authority areas of Okahandja and Rehoboth.
The lockdown, he said, was extended countrywide from 18 April to 4 May 2020.
"We rolled out a stimulus package at around 13% of our budget to assuage the loss of income for businesses and the most vulnerable sectors of the population, who received an Emergency Income Grant (EIG)," Geingob said.
"I have been emphasising throughout this period that the health of Namibians remains the priority. Our prompt action to close points of entry and issue comprehensive restrictions on the movement of people helped to contain the spread of the virus. The incidence curve flattened at 16 cases, with 9 recoveries up to date," he told fellow leaders.
He added that there have been no community transmissions and no Covid-19 related deaths in Namibia.
"The countrywide lockdown lapsed at midnight on Monday, 4 May 2020, and we have progressively commenced with the relaxation of countrywide restrictions on the movement of people, goods and services. We are seeking to strike a balance between protecting life on the one hand and economic activity on the other," he said.
According to him, the state of emergency, which he declared on 17 March 2020, remains in force for six months and may be extended, subject to the data available on Covid-19 cases.
He said the country has entered stage 2 since Tuesday 5 May 2020, a period envisaged to last until 2 June 2020.
"We will graduate to stage 3 and 4, subject to tangible improvements on the ground," he said.