SWAKOPMUND – The fishing industry has called on the government to also prioritise seamen and seafarers in the country’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
This request was made by the chairperson of the Confederation of Namibian Fishing Association, Matti Amukwa, last week during consultations with fisheries minister Albert Kawana at Swakopmund. Close to 50 seamen have tested positive for Covid-19 in the recent weeks, despite some companies doing their best to quarantine them, as required before boarding a fishing vessel. Amukwa during the meeting said the nature of fishing is that seamen work closely together on vessels, thereby increasing the risk of contracting Covid-19.
“Also, the fishing industry has under the Covid-19 emergency regulations been classified an essential industry while the nature of fishing requires that a number of people live and work in close contact on fishing vessels,” Amukwa said. He added fishing is the first link in the value creation chain of the fishing industry and all other activities such as value addition depends on a successful catch trip by fishing vessels.
“If vessels cannot operate because they are laid up as a result of the crew having become infected with Covid-19, then production onshore slows down or comes to a halt,” Amukwa explained, adding fishermen are crucial to the successful operations of the fishing industry. “We, therefore, request that the authorities consider placing our seamen on a priority list for vaccination once such lists are established,” Amukwa appealed.
Namibia is expecting its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines, which have been procured through the Covax scheme, this month.
The Chinese and Indian governments have also donated 100 000 and 30 000 vaccine doses, respectively. The initial vaccines ordered by the government will only be enough to inoculate about 20% of the population and have thus been prioritised for front liners and the vulnerable in society.