Jail time for health protocol breaches

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Windhoek – As countries ease lockdown restrictions, governments are going all out to ensure this does not mean a letting down of the guard amidst indications from experts that the world is not yet out of the woods in dealing with the new coronavirus pandemic.

While rules on movements are being relaxed and businesses reopening, governments have been ramping up legal provisions to enforce compliance with public health protocols.

In Zambia, law enforcement agents can impose fines of around US$40 for breaches, while in Botswana and Zimbabwe, authorities have retained the right to take action against violators of regulations.

This week, Namibia’s President Hage Geingob made a proclamation not to extend the state of emergency that lapsed last week, but warned that authorities would be tough on behaviour that fuels the spread of COVID-19.

Justice Minister Yvonne Dausab said the country would be guided by the Public and Environmental Health Act.

“The Minister of Health will advise what steps can be taken under the new set up. If the situation is normalising, he can advise that we open up further and if the situation is deteriorating, he can suggest measures that can be made,” Dausab told a media conference at State House.

The Act stipulates that anyone convicted of violating public health laws will be fined up to N$100,000 (US$6,700) or face 10 years in prison.

The health minister is empowered to prohibit the holding of public gatherings, whose limit is presently set at 50 people. The minister can also instruct any person to take action that is reasonably required to protect health.

Health Minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said, “It will not be a one-man decision. Just read the Public and Environmental Health Act and specifically Section 29,” he said.

The law allows the minister to regulate the operations of schools, churches and recreational venues.

In Europe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week also announced tough measures that include fines of up to US$12,700 for people who refuse to self-isolate.

The provisions are effective September 28.

Those attracting the highest penalties include people who stop others from self-isolating, such as employers who force workers to report for duty when they have been previously told by authorities to self-isolate.

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