The state of emergency remains and the lockdown is not supposed to end until midnight May 4th. But, it is getting harder to tell that this is a time of world and national medical crisis from the increase in public movement on the streets. As usual in Namibia, the climate of inconsistency strikes again. With an infectious disease at stake, one wonders if people believe that stupidity is a contamination suit against germs.
Everyone is passionate and burning with enthusiasm when programs begin, but as time passes, urgency is the first casualty. This is not only a Namibian ‘thing’. It happens all over. People begin to take things for granted and become mentally numb. Then, they move on in their attitudes as the ‘emergency’ climate dissipates. There is no downside to noncompliance, so who cares, right?
Government leaders, police officials, and businesses always struggle with being consistent.
Officers that were stopping and requesting travel papers three weeks ago are now invisible.
Shops that made people wait in queues outside, don’t even check anymore.
Duel purpose shops that prevented sales of non-food items now will sell anything they have.
Tape demarcating how far apart people should stand is worn away never to be replaced.
Malls had staff at every entrance spraying disinfectant on hands. Now, these brave staff members are collecting trolleys instead.
Roadblock officials are complaining about the high number of people passing through. What kind of lockdown is it that allows 1,400 people to pass through a Swakopmund roadblock?
Allegations of travel permits being sold or handed out as ‘favors’ by useless and reckless local officials are prevalent. So much for devolution and national commitment to keeping Namibia safe from disease.
ATM windows have back-to-back queues as people swarm to get grants and late salaries.
People clearly aren’t too fussed about spreading or catching the infection. The world has changed and people wandering disinterestedly around the city streets did not get the memo.
On the streets of the affluent areas of town, exercise walkers, joggers, and dog walkers are having a wonderful time. They gather in smiling, laughing packs of people to enjoy the lockdown. No one puts them in check and forces compliance with the rules.
Even the ruling party had a celebration of their birthday during the lockdown. What happened to ‘leading by example?’
This problem is not only about COVID-19 precautions. There is a problem in Namibia regarding the consistent implementation of regulations, and policies. It is as if the rules apply only until people become too bored to care.
This situation tends to make one revisit some of the complaints about the need to extend the lockdown in the first place. Why did we extend it if no one cares about lockdown anymore? Was it really a necessary medical step? Or was it done to please the US and UK that are now dripping a bit of development assistant into depleted national accounts?
Is the lockdown in effect in the hearts and minds of people in Namibia? Not anymore.
The government has tested about 600 people (so far) of a 2.5 million population. There will never be significant data on whether the 16 confirmed cases in Namibia are accurate. When lockdown lifts, we are rolling the dice anyway. The fact that this country has not had any COVID-19 deaths is a blessing in this lackadaisical approach to lockdown.
As Namibia reopens and the world begins its long stretch after the COVID burden, the immediate future is frightening. The indications of full economic collapse are here. Let us break from our usual bad habit of being careless and random about rule implementation. There are only about seven days of lockdown left. The finish line is ahead; let us sprint for it, but stay in our lanes. This includes decision-makers, leaders, the affluent, the tired, restless, bored, and impatient. Let us be consistent, just this once.