COVID-19, which is spreading all over the world, has also impacted Namibia. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 45,039 positive cases have been officially registered, of which 548 people have died (as of 9 April 2021, source: WHO)
The first two COVID-19 cases in Namibia were detected in March 2020. Travel restrictions, lockdown, and hygiene measures were implemented. The German Foreign Office classified Namibia as a risk area. What is the situation in Namibia one year later?
Due to the increase of COVID-10 infection numbers in December 2020, the measures, which were initially more relaxed, were tightened again. In addition, Namibia’s President Hage Geingob extended the regulations announced in January 2021 until end of March 2021.
The current COVID-19 measures in Namibia are:
- Adherence to distance and hygiene rules
- Wearing of a face mask in public areas
- Curfew from 10.00 p.m. to 4.00 a.m.
- Temporally restricted sale and serving of alcohol (Mon-Fri only allowed until 8.00 p.m. and Sat only until 1.00 p.m., prohibited on Sundays and public holidays)
- Public events, meetings, concerts, religious services may only take place with less than 50 people. Registration and compliance with hygiene and distance regulations are required.
- Stores, restaurants, cultural institutions, hairdressers, etc. may open in compliance with the distance and hygiene regulations.
- Entry for foreigners to Namibia only possible with negative PCR test
- Tourists and visitors must present a bindingly booked travel program as well as additional health forms and travel health insurance that covers treatment costs in case of COVID-19 infection.
For some time, travel within the country was also prohibited. This restriction has been lifted again.
If one breaches the valid regulations, high fines can become due.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Namibia did not have its own testing facilities, so tests had to be sent to South Africa for analysis. This cost additional time and money. In the meantime, laboratories have been set up in Namibia that can process tests. In December 2020, there was a brief holiday surge. All travellers had to be tested, which swamped the laboratories. Therefore, the number of tests per day had to be limited. Only people who had registered for an appointment in time beforehand were tested.
Economic Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic
As in many other African countries, the tourism industry in Namibia plays an extremely important role in the overall economy. Since mid-September 2020, international guests have been allowed to enter Namibia again. However, due to travel restrictions imposed by other countries, significantly fewer tourists than usual are coming to Namibia.
As a result, the jobs of thousands of Namibians working in tourism are threatened. They lose their only source of income and face existential hardship. This situation hits the rural population particularly hard, as they often already live on the edge of subsistence anyway. In order to be able to provide for themselves and their families, some suffering people see poaching and illegal animal trade as the last way out of poverty.
The Health Care System in Namibia
The health care system in Namibia is not comparable to the German health care system. There are good private hospitals in Namibia, but their number is far too small. The hospitals have only few intensive care beds and ventilators. Moreover, the health system is already strained with the treatment of other serious illnesses such as Ebola. In addition, many people cannot afford treatment due to the high costs of care.
These problems are being felt even in urban areas. In rural areas, the health care system is particularly deficient. There are often no doctors or hospitals nearby, so visiting a doctor is already impossible because of the distance.
Namibia has received vaccine doses against COVID-19 from China and started the first vaccinations for healthcare workers on 19 March 2021, without waiting for the WHO to release the vaccine it received. According to media reports, however, the vaccination campaign is proceeding slowly. A total of about 152 people have been vaccinated so far. More vaccines from the WHO’s Covax initiative are expected, but a delivery date is still pending. A delay is to be expected as there has been a temporary ban on exports of vaccines from India under the licence of AstraZeneca.