Namibia is now in the third wave of Covid-19 infections with a sharp increase in positive cases, deaths as well as hospitalisations while an overwhelming majority are vaccine hesitant and would prefer praying over inoculation.
Health executive director Ben Nangombe confirmed Namibia's third wave of the pandemic, as it experienced a sharp surge in cases over the last few days.
By Wednesday, Namibia had recorded 865 Covid-19 deaths, 56 264 cumulative confirmed cases, but only over 70 000 persons who had received their first vaccine doses. The country recorded its first two cases on 13 March 2020, and a few cases soon thereafter. A quiet period of about 45 days without a case followed, and the country still only had 34 cases by 16 June 2020. Within a week by 25 June 2020, the cases had increased to 90.
An Afrobarometer survey released this week on perceptions of inoculation found that close to two-thirds (63%) of Namibians believe that prayer is more effective than a vaccine would be in preventing Covid-19 infections. Despite having free access countrywide, Namibians have been reluctant to take up the vaccinations since the government's programme started in mid-April.
Nangombe, who was responding to questions sent to the ministry, yesterday explained that not only is the country recording more cases, but more people are becoming symptomatic, getting seriously ill and dying.
"We need to stop the increase in cases. People need to take this call to action very seriously before more lives are lost. We need to do everything we can, with as much commitment as when the pandemic first started. We need to wear a mask, keep our distance, and wash our hands," he cautioned.
Nangombe also urged people who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as the ministry has vaccination points across the country. Vaccination is available to anyone over the age of 18 as it is important to protect those who are older, or who have underlying health conditions.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Nangombe indicated that there is an increase in the number of admissions of Covid-19 patients, which places additional pressure on the capacity of the existing oxygen supply infrastructure.
The increased demand affects two aspects, namely the oxygen pressure in the system, and the purity of oxygen.
The executive director observed that the ministry has increased the number of beds at the Windhoek Central Hospital's respiratory unit from 68 to 74, as well as created additional physical spaces in other hospitals to cater for the situation. Meanwhile, the chief of the branch of clinical services at the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), Dr Steven Hong, reiterated that the country has reached the third wave, and everyone must thus make a dedicated effort to help stop the spread of the virus and prevent more deaths. "We all must wear masks correctly, keep good distancing, and avoid overcrowded indoor spaces. When we say keep their distance, we mean that people need to start making different choices to the ones they were making in summer," he stressed. He added that the cold weather made it harder to prevent the spread of the virus.
"Small changes in our behaviour can make it easier for the virus to spread. For example, as it gets colder, people prefer to be indoors, where there is less ventilation. We need to voluntarily choose not to attend some gatherings; we need to hold meetings outside, even when it is cold. And we need to use virtual options when it is possible," he advised.
Get the jab
Meanwhile, physician Dr Ismael Katjitae said vaccinations have proven to be very effective against all current Covid-19 variants, and that vaccination could be the only possible way to control the pandemic so far.
Nampa quoted Katjitae, who spoke during a media conference on Wednesday, as saying many people are scared to get vaccinated due to false information about the vaccines.
However, experience has shown so far that all approved vaccines are very effective, and could help control the pandemic.
Katjitae emphasised that the Covid-19 situation in Namibia has escalated due to people's ignorant behaviour towards preventative measures, including vaccination.
"If we do not adhere to the measures put in place, the pandemic will get out of control. However, the sad part is that people are given the solution, which is the vaccines," he noted. The doctor in many European countries such as the United Kingdom, Covid-19 deaths have declined drastically, with no deaths reported in the last two weeks there as over 50% of their populations have been vaccinated.
"The main game-changer for these countries, including America, is the vaccines. Our people have been provided with the same solution, but people are reluctant to get vaccinated, yet they are not complying with other preventative measures such as wearing masks," he continued.
Katjitae also noted that people in other parts of the world where there is a shortage of vaccines "are crying to be vaccinated," and that Namibians are actually fortunate to have the possibility of everyone getting vaccinated.
"If Namibians are really serious about bringing an end to this pandemic, they need to get vaccinated. However, our people choose to listen to uninformed individuals who are sabotaging the only tool to get this country out of this pandemic," he stated.
-Additional reporting by Nampa