Namibia: Haufiku Warns On Slow COVID-19 Response

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Former health minister Bernard Haufiku said he is concerned about Namibia's testing coverage, lack of facilities and equipment to contain the coronavirus.

Haufiku confirmed this to The Namibian yesterday when asked about his role as chairperson of the national task force set up to contain the virus.

"I do not have time to wait for paperwork and I believe neither does Namibia. I see a fireball on the horizon, which can engulf this nation any moment," Haufiku told The Namibian yesterday.

Haufiku - a special adviser to vice president Nangolo Mbumba on health matters - was appointed to coordinate the fight against the virus. But that appears to have changed, with health minister Kalumbi Shangula taking centre stage.

Shangula confirmed to The Namibian yesterday that the government is reviewing Haufiku's role.

"He asked me about his role. I said yes, his term of reference is being reviewed in line with what the president announced," Shangula said.

President Hage Geingob announced last Friday that Shangula is the government's go-to person for information on Namibia's coronavirus fight.

"But I told him [Haufiku] to continue] with his work," Shangula said. He did not provide a date when Haufiku's role will be clarified, but he said it is probably because of the busy schedules of people involved.

Shangula said there is a need to maintain a uniform government stance on decisions.

'AT OUR PERIL'

The Namibian understands that Haufiku told a Namibian medical WhatsApp group yesterday that he supports a total lockdown of the country and that a delay "shall be at our peril".

"But this must not follow the route of Khomas and Erongo. It must be done differently... consulting as broadly as possible, including businesses and the private sector, and everyone. Regulations should be in place before the announcement. And the public fully and comprehensively informed," he said.

Haufiku expressed concern with the number of people being tested, which are very few in relation to the populations at risk.

He also said he is concerned about lack of facilities and equipment such as ventilators in the regions.

Every component in the response in all regions must be ready, including sufficient capability for respiratory support, the former minister said.

"And that's why I proposed that we fast-track capacity building in all regions. Expand testing capacity, increase quarantine, isolation and treatment centres, pool human resources and protect the care providers and provide them with the necessary tools. More so in densely populated areas such as the north," he said.

Shangula insisted over the weekend that there appears to be an overreaction by the public, who are questioning the availability of ventilators in state hospitals.

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