In a ministerial statement delivered in the National Assembly this week, a visibly distressed Dr Kalumbi Shangula painted a grim picture on the Covid-19 situation in the country.
The health minister reminded the nation that we are now in the midst of a virulent and devastating third wave of the pandemic, which calls for citizens to do their part to help suppress the spread of the virus, which has now claimed over 950 lives in the country. “For this reason, we must all do our part to protect ourselves and our families. The power to defeat this pandemic is in our own hands,” Shangula urged.
The situation is very serious. The bottom line is that Namibia is experiencing a record number of infections, and we should be in a constant state of worry, seeing that the curve shows no sign of flattening. Despite the rising cases, partygoers are playing down safety concerns, and are seemingly unbothered by the unfolding crisis. Some churches have also disregarded public health measures and opened for full congregations, which is quite sad.
Yes, it is true that Namibians are frustrated and can’t cope with social isolation and pandemic fatigue. The pandemic is ruining everything, and a lot has been thrown into chaos. However, the situation is of particular concern, especially in Windhoek, which is reporting a sustained increase in cases.
The crisis in Windhoek has also seen both the central and Katutura hospitals suspending non-emergency referrals from other regions due to overwhelmed isolation centres and intensive care units. In comparison to wealthy western nations, who have more than 25 ICU beds per 100 000 people, we are unfortunately not at that stage as we have limited beds and mechanical ventilators.
Thus, we can ill-afford to put our already frail public healthcare system under severe pressure. Although Shangula has indicated that the ministry has ramped up efforts to contain the third wave through hiring additional health workers, the construction of dedicated oxygen generating banks and the procuring of critical supplies, we are far from defeating this pandemic.
At this rate, frontline workers cannot cope with the upsurge in new infections. They are overwhelmed, and still have to contend with stigma from their community and loved ones, as well as their concerns about getting infected.
Experts have also warned that the winter weather has increased the risk of infection, making it more difficult to contain the current wave.
However, to defeat Covid, we must work together and adhere to public health regulations as prescribed by the authorities.
This week, many Namibians waited for government to announce another lockdown or to close schools, while we walk around with our masks around our chins in crowded shopping centres.
We have dropped our guard too soon, and we should now go back to the drawing board, and be extremely cautious and diligent about all the steps we have been advised to follow.
With personal accountability, we can tip the scale and suppress the spread of the virus. It is now up to the public to take destiny in their own hands, otherwise we are doomed.