THE Namibian government has distanced itself from statements attributed to its Health minister Richard Kamwi who last week was quoted as implying that there was an outbreak of Ebola in Zimbabwe and urging Namibians to avoid travelling to the Southern African country.
In a statement issued through the country’s embassy in Harare over the weekend, Namibia’s acting Permanent Secretary for Health Dr Norbert Foster described the minister’s statements as unofficial and not reflective of the government’s position.
“The Ministry of Health and Social Services has at no time issued any official communication that may be wrongly construed as banning Namibians from visiting Zimbabwe or any of the actually affected countries in West Africa,” Foster said.
“Similarly, the ministry has never proposed to ban travellers from any of the affected countries or Zimbabwe to Namibia.”
In the wake of reports that Zimbabwe had quarantined over 100 people who returned from countries
affected by the deadly outbreak in West Africa, Kamwi told The Namibian newspaper from New York that he was advising Namibians not to travel to Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans not to visit that country.
“The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days and until they are over and the country has been declared safe, I advise Namibians not to visit and Zimbabweans not to come to Namibia,” Kamwi was quoted as saying.
“We do not know without doubt that it [Ebola] is contained, so we still need to take care of ourselves.”
Foster, however, said they had received confirmation from the World Health Organization (WHO) that no Ebola cases had been detected in Zimbabwe.
“The Ministry of Health and Social Services is hereby informing the nation that Cabinet recently approved the decision of the AU Executive Council Emergency Meeting on Ebola according to which any travel bans related to the epidemic in West Africa should be limited,” he said.
Since July this year, Zimbabwe has been on high alert for Ebola that has wreaked havoc in West Africa with all entry points reportedly prepared to deal with the haemorrhagic fever.
Last week, rumours circulated that Ebola had been detected at Parirenyatwa Hospital in the country, but Health minister David Parirenyatwa dismissed the claims as unfounded.
“We would want to assure you that the hospital did not, at any time, detect any Ebola case. Patients are screened in line with set protocols of the Ministry of Health and Child Care regarding the Ebola
virus disease. Tents have been availed to screen patients before they are attended to at accidents, in emergency department and outpatients department respectively,” he told the Senate.