Namibia: Covid Kills 146 in Six Weeks

COVID-19 has killed 146 people in Namibia in the past six weeks, which does not include yesterday's five deaths recorded at the start of the new week.

More than 34 patients are currently in intensive care units countrywide.

This is a record compared to 105 deaths reported between December last year and January this year.

On average, about 24 people have lost their lives in the fight against Covid-19 per week since 1 March.

Last week, Namibia's highest number of deaths, totalling 33 in seven days, was recorded.

Some 27 people per week died due to the virus around mid-March.

Late last month, minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula warned that Covid-19 deaths were on the increase, saying Namibians should be cautious of public gatherings.

"It is concerning that we keep reporting Covid-19 deaths on an almost daily basis. We continue emphasising ... caution when in public places, particularly in enclosed settings, such as bars and churches ..," he said.

At the time event organisers and church leaders were pleading with the government to allow bigger gatherings.

The leaders of the Christian Revival Church started a movement on social media called 'Safe reopening of churches', saying people's mental well-being should be prioritised.

Shangula at the end of March surrendered to these calls and increased the number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor public gatherings from 50 to 100.

The minister yesterday said the country has been faced with many detrimental events, starting with last year's regional and local authority election campaigns, followed by the festive season, which saw an increase in infections.

He said the recent Easter holidays would soon lead to an increase in the number of infections and subsequently in the number of Covid-19 deaths.

"With these events people did not adhere to the regulations," Shangula said.

He said according to genomic sequencing results, the South African strain of the virus has not spread in Namibia in big numbers, yet the country is seeing more deaths.

Shangula said behavioural changes could curb the number of Covid-19 infections, and as a result the number of deaths.

"People have become careless," he said.

The minister said the vaccination programme, which is currently rolled out in the Khomas and Erongo regions, would also help to curb the spread of the virus.

He said the programme would be expanded to other regions from 19 April.

BEHAVIOURAL CHANGES

Dr Bernard Haufiku, chairman of the Africa Public Health Foundation, says he expects an increase in Covid-19 cases after the various holidays as "a consequence of our behaviour".

He, however, says the restriction of movement does not necessarily curb the spread of the virus, but behavioural changes would.

Haufiku said the South African virus strain is not more dangerous than the original one, but is more transmissible, which would also affect the number of deaths due to Covid-19.

VACCINES

Namibia is not on this week's Covax facility delivery list, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

This is despite Shangula last month announcing that the country would receive doses within three weeks.

Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's regional director for Africa, four days ago announced which countries are expecting vaccine deliveries, and Namibia was not on the list.

The facility, run by the WHO and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, has been promising to deliver vaccines since the end of January.

Moeti said shipment delays are expected to continue this month, as India is fighting a debilitating second wave of Covid-19 infections, and has temporarily banned the export of vaccines.

The Covax facility has delivered doses to over 100 economies since its first delivery to Ghana on 24 February, which totals 16,6 million vials in Africa.

Namibia has managed to vaccinate 2 875 people against Covid-19 at the time of going to print yesterday.

The government last week called on frontline workers to be vaccinated after some health professionals expressed reluctance to getting the jab.

The country is currently administering Sinopharm and Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca) vaccines.

Namibia is expecting at least 127 700 additional doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine through the Covax facility.

President Hage Geingob has accused the WHO of "vaccine apartheid". Namibia is still awaiting paid-for vaccines while over 100 economies have received their shots from the Covax facility.

Namibia's deployment and vaccination plan for Covid-19 vaccines will cost the country about N$583 million.

Of this amount, N$484 million will be spent on the procurement of vaccines.

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