The new normal is now

We support President Hage Geingob’s difficult decision not to extend the State of Emergency. While other restrictions and protective measures are still in place, the damaged Namibian economy is open. Recovery will not be automatic; it may take years for Namibia to show significant economic growth. The country was in a devastating recession even before the pandemic struck. Nevertheless, moving towards a light at the end of the tunnel, even without a COVID-19 vaccine available, is critical to the nation’s survival.

To a certain degree, Namibia allowed the over-the-top pandemic reactions of the Western world to infect us in many ways. Still, we did what we could do and had we done nothing, the results would have been worse.

But, now, it has become clear that we need to face a new normal that involves living with COVID-19 as a fact of life.

A viable vaccine may not make its way to Africa until 2021. US President Trump will force big pharmaceutical companies to rush out a ‘vaccine’ as a ploy for the US elections. Namibia must not be a guinea pig in an effort that US scientists and those around the world are lambasting. Science cannot work on politicians’ schedules, nor should it.

With this reality, we must make our peace with what we have. Namibians must thank the foreign medical experts that have been advising us and send them home. We have to live with the aftermath here; they do not. Let us therefore look to ourselves and what Namibia needs to do to get on top of the new normal the best way we can.

Bluntly speaking, Namibians never properly embraced social distancing, hand washing and other pandemic preventative methods. Many of our people unashamedly or ignorantly wear their masks with their noses uncovered. They have no idea that this renders the mask wearing process useless. And yet, that is the norm. We have been going through the steps of a national awareness campaign about COVID-19, not a strict national pandemic prevention effort.

Our healthcare workers have paid a terrible price for their tremendous efforts to to serve the nation. They MUST receive hazard pay at the earliest possible moment. Those healthcare heroes who are infected must receive the VIP care.

With the president’s decision, we all must prepare to accept that the number of cases will go up in the short term. People, who can now travel from previously restricted areas, will run home to their villages for various reasons. They will bring the disease with them.

Infection and deaths figures may go up. We can only hope those newly infected will have mild cases and that our overloaded medical system (particularly in rural areas) can cope. We must prepare for this and respond rationally. The president’s comment that COVID kills, but poverty does too, is accurate. We say this not to belittle those who have died in this pandemic or those that are fighting for their lives and health, but we must face facts.

People must earn money to buy bread or they will starve. Government has no money to bail out every business that needs it. There is no money to feed 2.5 million people three nutritious meals each day. There is no money to repeat the EIG. Extreme economic disaster is looming if Namibia cannot fund its budget deficit. We must meet deadlines for payment on external hard currency bonds that will mature in a year. The economy must generate income as quickly as it can. This re-boot will be slow.

In his announcement, the president did not sugar coat the risk he is taking for the nation by not extending the State of Emergency. That is the hard side of leadership. But, taking the right decision, knowing that there will be collateral damage in human costs, is an unavoidable no-win situation.

Let us all adapt permanently to the new normal and the preventative measures we have been following (to some degree) for the last several months. Those who can eat in cafes and restaurants must do this to help some of those businesses survive. Those who can afford domestic tourism must take a weekend off and travel internally to help save a few of those jobs too.

Let our entertainers appear live once again. Though only 50 people are allowed in, these performances can stream online and lift people’s spirits. We need it. Let the artists paint and sculpt again. People need the hope that comes from creative efforts.

Shops must launch great shoe and clothing sales to lure people back to the malls. The newest movie most be shown in the cinemas.

Everyone who is registered must go to vote. Life must go on.

COVID-19 is an unwanted house guest for the time being and we must be a reluctant host for the foreseeable future. We must adjust and adapt and be smart.

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