Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula says although Covid-19 positive cases, hospitalisations and deaths are on a downward trend, Namibia is prepared for a possible future resurgence in cases as the numbers are picking up in especially European countries.
According to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, Covid-19 cases are once again surging in Europe, and data show that the countries recording the biggest rebounds are lagging in vaccinations. Cases have risen in almost every European country over the last two weeks. In 13 of 45 countries, new cases have more than doubled. More than half of European countries with the biggest outbreaks rank in the bottom half when it comes to vaccination rates on the continent.
The outbreaks in Europe are among the most severe in the world; six of the 10 countries with the biggest case increases are on the continent.
Austria has one of Europe’s highest infection rates, with a seven-day incidence of 815 per 100 000 people. Austria has entered a lockdown for unvaccinated people, with police checks to ensure compliance. The government says around two million of the country’s nine million people are now only allowed to leave their homes for travelling to work or shopping for essentials.
In China, where the coronavirus originated, the latest resurgence has spread to 21 regions, where new locally transmitted cases or asymptomatic carriers were reported in the past few days.
Confirmed Covid-19 cases have passed 253.3 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.1 million and more than 7.48 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally.
Shangula told New Era that they are following the Covid-19 developments in the world and the preparedness measures the country has in places such as the establishment of intensive care units, procurement of additional beds and construction of tented wards.
Other initiatives being implemented to strengthen the Covid-19 preparedness and response and to prepare for the possible fourth wave is the capacity assessment visits to selected disaster risk management warehouses with the potential to accommodate Covid-19 commodities and supplies.
“This will streamline and improve the distribution of these commodities. The assessment was completed in Mariental to cater for Hardap and //Kharas; as well as for Oshakati, which will cater for northern Namibia. This will ensure supplies are available close to where they are needed,” he confidently said.
Another initiative outlined by Shangula is Africa Centre for Disease Control and World Health Organisation (WHO) have made epidemiologists available to strengthen the country’s response in the area of data management, contact tracing, epidemiological research on Covid-19 and enhanced detection.
“A total number of 80 healthcare workers were trained on matters related to rapid response, with the assistance of the Robert Koch Institute, CDC and WHO and will be cascaded to regional Covid-19 response teams,” he indicated.
“We are following developments in the whole world. After the government decided to establish ICUs at formerly less-resourced district hospitals to improve service delivery, an advertisement was placed on the ministry’s website for the repurposing of a ward at Katima Mulilo State Hospital into a 14-bed ICU facility and scoping work was concluded at Outapi, Otjiwarongo, Rundu, Gobabis, Mariental, Engela, Opuwo, Swakopmund, and Nankundu hospitals for the establishment of ICUs at those hospitals,” he said.
Shangula also said steps were taken to upgrade mortuary capacity around the country.
“In this regard, the upgrading and servicing of the mortuary at Windhoek Central hospital from the initial capacity of 186 cabins to 314 cabins was concluded. The total capacity is now 500 cabins, inclusive of the police mortuary. The Grootfontein mortuary is upgraded with three new cabins to a capacity of 12 cabins. Arrangements are at an advanced stage for the servicing and repairs of mortuaries at Otjinene, Epukiro, Tallismanus, Shuckmansburg (Luhonono) and Impalila clinics, Nkurenkuru Health Centre; Katima Mulilo State hospital, Keetmanshoop, Karasburg, Kamanjab and Eenhana hospitals,” he indicated.
The minister further indicated that the oxygen generating system for Rundu is nearing completion while at Mariental State hospital was commissioned.
He added, the Welsh government, through Cardiff University and Unam initiated the procurement of four-ton oxygen tanks for Gobabis and Grootfontein as well as an oxygen generating plant for Katima Mulilo State hospital.