As Namibia records over 1 000 Covid-19 positive cases daily in the last few days and almost 1 000 deaths and a sharp increase in hospitalisations, the country’s third wave of infections wreaks havoc.
Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said last week that the country’s mortuaries are full to capacity as Covid-19 related deaths increase. From 1 to 12 June 2021, the country recorded 163 deaths. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned people to avoid travelling to Namibia.
“If you must travel to Namibia, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” read a notice on the CDC website.
“Because of the current situation in Namibia, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk of getting and spreading Covid-19 variants. Travellers should follow recommendations or requirements in Namibia, including wearing a mask
and staying six feet apart from others”.
Namibia has in the last week announced record numbers of positive cases of over 1 000 per day. At the time of going to print yesterday, the country had accumulated 939 Covid-19 deaths, 64 205 confirmed cases and 86 409 people having received the first vaccine dose, and 14 384 receiving the second dose. The country has 9 064 active cases and a recovery rate of 84%. Namibia recorded its first Covid-19 case on 13 March 2020, and the first death on 8 July in the same year.
While a students as well as a teachers’ union asked for schools to be closed as numbers have flared up among learners and teachers, the ministry of education has insisted that only schools with high
positive numbers will be closed.
In an interview with Nampa on Thursday and while responding to questions about rising cases among school children as well as calls from members of parliament and the Teachers Union of Namibia (TUN) and Students Union of Namibia (SUN) for the ministry to close schools for June and July 2021 until the situation gets better, or while finding amicable solutions, education minister Anna Nghipondoka was adamant that the school trimester will not be interrupted, and teaching will go on as planned.
She said only schools with a high number of cases will be closed for a few days for disinfection, and affected learners and teachers are advised to stay home until they recover. “From where we are standing now, we are not planning any interruption at all. But we are saying that we are working around the clock to make sure that the measures we have put in place all along will still be enhanced by ensuring that our children are safe at school. We still believe that these children are roaming around out there while the parents are at work,” said Nghipondoka. She added that another reason for not closing schools is the activities that school-going children get involved in while they are not attending classes. Some boys might end up mixing with wrong groups and get tempted to do drugs and other sorts of wrong activities, while girls end up falling pregnant and dropping out of school.
Government is trying hard to avoid another lockdown, but may be forced to introduce stricter measures as the country’s Covid-19 situation is worsening, with deaths nearing 1 000 and the current measures only lapsing on 30 June. With the current epidemiological trend and the latest developments, the ministry of health is analysing the situation, reviewing the measures and checking whether it is prudent to intervene before 30 June, Shangula said on Thursday while responding to questions in the National Assembly by National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) parliamentarian, Joseph Kauandenge, who wanted to know whether the country is heading for another lockdown. “Has the ministry ruled out any possible lockdown because, at the time when the infection rate was so high, we went on a lockdown, and now when the situation is so dire with many people dying, are we going to say we trust people to make sound judgements and protect themselves?” Kauandenge asked.
Shangula said the ministry has a team that monitors the pandemic situation on a daily basis, and makes recommendations to arrest it.
“We are trying to shy away from the lockdown because it has also assumed certain connotations, but what I can assure you is that we are monitoring the situation, and we may intervene at any time when we feel it is warranted,” he responded. On Wednesday, TUN secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha wrote a letter to the education minister, requesting her to allow vulnerable teachers with underlying health conditions, including those who are pregnant, to work from home with immediate effect. He also informed the minister that he had already written to teachers, urging them to invoke a provision of Section 42 of the Labour Act should they be threatened sufficiently enough by the prevalence of the virus at their schools.
A survey, released last week on perceptions of inoculation by Afrobarometer, found that close to two-thirds (63%) of Namibians believe prayer is more effective than a vaccine in preventing Covid-9 infections.