Source: https://www.namibian.com.na/92108/read/Namibia-to-open-its-borders Namibia to open its borders NAMIBIA will be the first country in the southern African region to open up its borders to international tourists after the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic. This is to avert continued job losses in the tourism sector – albeit under strict conditions. This was announced by president Hage Geingob yesterday, while revealing that a ministerial task force, led by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, would commence an assessment of opening up to international tourism from countries with a lower Covid-19 risk. Pohamba Shifeta, minister of environment, forestry and tourism recently said the tourism industry stands to bleed N$20 billion at the current rate of zero tourist arrivals. The president yesterday announced Namibia will move to stage 4 of the lockdown exit strategy early next month, balancing economic operations with the health of Namibians. Geingob said Namibia would allow foreign tourists with Covid-19-free certificates into the country. These tourists would have to be tested for Covid-19 upon entry, and undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine period at their own cost. The president's call comes amid a sharp spike in positive test results, with cases yesterday standing at 63 in total. Geingob said although the points of entry would remain closed when Namibia moves to stage 4 from 30 June to 17 September, the government will conduct a targeted international tourism revival initiative from 15 July to 15 August in collaboration with the tourism and hospitality sector. This initiative will consider accommodating a limited number of tourists, to be determined in consultation with the private sector, from a carefully selected low-risk market which can potentially contribute to the country's tourism sector. This sector employs over 100 000 Namibians. Geingob said stage 5 of the lockdown exit strategy is an addition to the current stages and is anticipated to commence on 18 September. This stage would address exclusively opening points of entry and the resumption of air travel. STAGE 4 The president said as of 30 June all Namibians and non-Namibians entering the country will be subjected to a mandatory Covid-19 test on arrival, as well as mandatory government-supervised quarantine at own cost. “Only citizens who cannot afford to quarantine at own cost can apply to be quarantined at the cost of the government,” he said. During stage 4, public gatherings of 250 people at a time are allowed. “Members of the public must strictly adhere to health and hygiene protocols,” Geingob said. ERONGO's FATE The Erongo region has been moved to stage 3 despite recording 24 out of 28 new Covid-19 cases in June. The region moves to the new stage today until midnight on 6 July, the president said. However, at Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, public gatherings are still limited to 10 people, while in the rest of the region 50 people are allowed at public gatherings at a time. Travelling between towns in the Erongo region and to the rest of the country will be permitted, with the exception of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, Geingob said yesterday. He said travelling to the three local authorities is highly discouraged and will be restricted to emergency situations only as defined in official regulations. Minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula said the Erongo region will be monitored on a weekly basis, and stages may be reduced or extended subject to changes in the country's epidemiological situation. Shangula urged the public to adhere to regulations and to continue maintaining social distancing of at least one metre between people, as well as wearing masks and sanitising to minimise the risk of infection. Businesses are still required to keep a register of customers to assist with possible contact tracing. “Points of entry will remain closed, except for the transportation of imported goods. The government will conduct a targeted tourism initiative from 15 July to 15 August in collaboration with the private sector,” he said, corroborating the president's announcements. Namibians, permanent residence holders and professionals with valid work permits (as defined in regulations) should notify the Namibian embassy and high commission of their intent to travel to Namibia no less than two weeks prior to their departure. Only categories as defined in the regulations will be granted entry into the country. BUSINESSES Liquor outlets, shebeens and bars may operate under normal working hours, but the sale of alcohol will be restricted from 09h00 to 18h00 from Monday to Saturday. The sale of alcohol will be prohibited on Sundays. Casinos and gambling houses may only open for prebooked clients. Sporting events and activities are allowed to resume, limited to 250 people gathering at a time.