Like any other country in the world, Namibia is also dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19 and trying to alleviate what has become a pandemic. With confirmation of the first two cases of COVID-19 in the country on March 14, 2020, President Hage Geingob declared a State of Emergency on March 17, 2020 and directed an immediate lockdown that lasted for 38 days. Among many other crucial decisions was the cancellation of the 30th Independence Day public celebration. Infections flattened at 16 cases with no new cases reported for 45 days, until an uptick in new infections began from 20 May 2020. The status of COVID-19 in the country today is: 31 confirmed cases, 17 recoveries, 14 active cases, 0 death cases, 759 quarantined and a total number of 5 084 persons tested. With fewer resources compared to many other countries, Namibia has proven to be bold and brave by taking a decisive action in implementing a nationwide lockdown that resulted in relatively few cases. Namibia is one of the top-5 countries with the fewest cases of COVID-19 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). There has been evidently a concerted inclusive effort to keep each Namibian safe. For these reasons, the Government is applauded in its inclusive approach and dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak.
As it is always the norm, during any crises, critics are quick to point out the negatives and concentrate on issues that were not addressed urgently ignoring largely the good things that have also been done on the same. It should however be noted that considering, implementing and executing any programme especially at the national level is massive and costly undertaking and will always receive criticisms. The act of charity is not only a commendable human trait, but also a cornerstone of united, peaceful and prosperous nations. Through the leadership of President Hage Geingob and under his philosophy of inclusivity, all Namibians have shown unity and solidarity, especially the frontline health workers and law enforcement agencies.
One of the major side-effects of a lockdown in a country is the lack of income especially for the informal sectors. Restrictions in the movement, trading of goods and services in informal markets has had a huge impact on the people’s livelihoods. As a short-term measure to mitigate the negative socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, Government formulated an Economic Relief and Stimulus Package amounting to N$8.1 billion Namibian Dollars. This has provided relief to formal and informal businesses in some of the worst affected sectors such as Tourism and Hospitality, Fishing, Construction, SMEs and the informal sector. The Namibian government created and Emergency Income Grant (EIG), prioritised and fast-tracked actions for the most affected Namibians to take care of their immediate and urgent needs. These actions are clearly indicating the philosophy of inclusivity.
The EIG application process was quick and was rolled out almost effortlessly throughout the country. The Ministry of Finance estimated that 739 000 Namibians were eligible. It was reported that at least 350 000 applications had been received as at 13 April 2020. One week later a total of 579 000 applications had been received. Within three weeks from the EIG application, those that qualified received their EIG. However, there were some challenges reported where some people especially the marginalised community were not able to qualify for the EIG, due to lack of identity cards, lack of cell phones and any form of connectivity. In general, the GRN showed their commitment to cater for all Namibians.
President Geingob’s philosophy of inclusivity speaks to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals that commit to resolving and implementing the principle of Leave No one Behind (LNOB). As we wait for the Harambee Prosperity Plan II, we as a Namibian nation should continue to work in unity, putting our differences aside and putting the best of our minds together to defeat the common enemy (COVID-19) which is a human crisis that calls for solidarity.
This article was authored by Lameck Odada. Odada is a NUST Accounting Lecturer and Independent Economist. Opinions expressed here are of the author and not of the Namibia Daily News or NUST where he is employed.