Andrew Kathindi

New regulations that will guide how Namibians will live under the new normal have finally been gazetted, following the lapse of the state of emergency, last week.

Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula will now be empowered under Section 29 of the Public and Environmental Act to implement regulations which were initially set to come into effect on the 18th of September.

“The drafting of the Regulations took longer than anticipated due to the nature and number of legal issues that requires thorough consideration,” Attorney General, Festus Bandeka told Windhoek Observer.

The new regulations came into operation at midnight on the 24 September 2020 and cease to have effect at midnight on the 21st of October 2020.

Under the regulations, gatherings of more than 50 people remain prohibited unless for school, work or government business. Taxis remain with a carry embargo of three customers per trip to encourage social distancing and alcohol may only be sold until 6pm for take away purposes and only until 10pm where on-site consumption is allowed.

As per the regulations, however, “all businesses, operations and activities may operate or be conducted during their normal times of operation” provided they “ensure that the persons accessing the premises and services of the business, operation or activity at all times adhere to the measures, to combat, prevent and suppress the spread of COVID-19 as specified in and under these regulations and the directives.”

Failure to comply with these regulations will result in a penalty as prescribed as per the Public and Environmental Health Act, 2015 where “A person who contravenes or fails to comply with a directive issued or regulations made under subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding N$100,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”

Shangula, earlier this week, warned that the law gives his office the power to make severe changes with regards to public health regulations, after stating that people have thrown caution to the wind after the end of the six-month state of emergency.

“I am disappointed to observe that, after the State of Emergency has lapsed, the public started to behave as if COVID-19 is no more. The pandemic in Namibia is currently being controlled and managed using the Public and Environmental Health Act of 2015. The Act makes provision for severe sanctions for non-compliance with public health measures against an infectious disease,” said the Minister was quoted in the media saying.

He added, “This Act is already operational. We will however continue to urge the public to voluntarily comply with the stipulated public health measures in the interest of the broader Namibian public.”

This comes after President Hage Geingob warned when the state of emergency lapsed that government would monitor the situation for a period of 14 days, to determine the way forward, under a new dispensation.