Masks: the cart before the horse

The national phased plan to reopen Namibia is not Namibian. We have cut-and-pasted regulations suited to other people’s COVID-19 situations. However, prevention of the pandemic is not always a one-size-fits-all proposition.

The Phase 2 demand that masks be worn by everyone while in public has given rise to this concern.

The World Health Organization (WHO) website clearly states that there is no need for ALL citizens to wear masks. On the contrary, they cite that ONLY those working with patients in hospitals, those who are ill or living with those who are, the immune-compromised, and essential health care and safety employees, must wear masks. Those serving the public as essential businesses must also wear masks. When the masses who do not need masks are forced to wear them, it takes masks away from healthcare providers and emergency workers who need them more.

The UN WHO says, “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19.” (

There aren’t enough masks in Namibia for the people to follow the law. How then can the people wear them every day in public, at work, at church, exercising in groups, etc?

The US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has said “Everyone in the USA should wear a cloth mask when in public.” Even then, many States have declined to take on that advice. In Washington, DC masks are not universally required while in public. The CDC recommendation is directed at their own country, not Namibia.

Namibia has 2.5 million people and only 16 confirmed cases (no new cases in a month) and no deaths. The USA with 329 million people has 1.21 million confirmed cases (21,278 added per day), and 69,680 dies per day increasing by 877 each day. Why then, should the emergency laws needed for the USA which is wilting under the COVID-19 heat, be enacted in Namibia?

Most critically, Namibia does not have the number of masks needed.

All masks are NOT created equal. Only a certain kind are effective in blocking COVID-19 transmission. Some masks now cost N$499 for a package of five in Namibia. The lightweight disposable masks usually cost N$150 for 100 disposable masks in a box. But, now they are being pirated by desperate businesses selling those same disposable masks for N$50 each!

The ministry of trade and industrialization says that they will “consider” providing masks to informal traders. There should be nothing to consider. The government must provide them. It is a contradiction to re-open businesses, then customers cannot go buy anything at the informal trading places because there are no masks that permit a legal public presence.

The ministry of trade says it has identified tailors who can make 25,000 masks. Against a potential mask need of 2-3 million masks per week, such an announcement is embarrassing. Did the government not calculate the mask needs for the country and BEFORE requiring it?

Mandating all to wear masks in public has put the cart before the horse. Get the masks in the country FIRST, then mandate that we wear them.

Presumably, the police will begin arresting or ‘spot-fining’ people N$2,000 for not having a mask? This matter then, will end up before the Courts. How can the government pass a law that cannot logistically be followed?

We would suggest that no fines should be levied until there is a sufficient supply of masks in the country. Alternatively, the government must provide the masks to every citizen immediately or reconsider mandating such a broad mask policy.

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