Namibia: Strength Amid Despair... Khomas Goes Into Combat Mode Over Covid Surge

As Windhoek continues to drown under a brutal surge of Covid-19 cases and record deaths, Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua has called for the reinforcement of all public health protocols.

This is to battle the pandemic, which has led to fears of a healthcare catastrophe. Sharply rising cases have seen the local authority areas of Windhoek, Rehoboth and Okahandja partially locked down, schools have been temporarily closed until 30 June, and public gatherings limited to a maximum of 10 people.

"Let us get back into combat mode, and change the situation. Let us get to work and save lives," McLeod-Katjirua told journalists yesterday - a day after President Hage Geingob announced a raft of measures to contain an increase in new infections. With Windhoek now the epicentre of the country's Covid-19 battle, the situation has turned into an overwhelming sense of despair and anguish as both private and public health facilities struggle to cope as the more severe third wave hits hard.

"There is no doubt we are faced with mammoth challenges, ranging from a slow uptake for Covid-19 vaccination, excessive oxygen demand in our health facilities

in the Khomas region, the non-adherence of individuals to Covid-19 prevention protocols, businesses' non-adherence to Covid-19 protocols, overwhelmed testing sites, overstretched human resources for health and overwhelmed bed admission capacity both in private and public health facilities," stressed the governor.

"The Khomas region will be working together with stakeholders to identify additional vaccination and testing sites in constituencies to bring such services closer to the people as soon as possible. This should be supplemented by strong community education and awareness to be spearheaded by community leaders, with technical help from healthcare workers", she added.

McLeod-Katjirua announced that as of yesterday, the region had lost 368 people due to the pandemic, representing about 35% of the total deaths reported countrywide. About half of the country's active cases are in Khomas.

Figures yesterday also indicated that about 908 people were in home isolation, while 135 and 47 people, respectively, are in government isolation and quarantine facilities.

Since the start of the vaccination campaign in March, a total of 38 624 people have been vaccinated in Khomas for both first and second doses.

"We call on the private sector, Good Samaritans and other stakeholders to assist the Ministry of Health and Social Services to boost the oxygen capacity at our health facilities, e. g. supporting the ministry to acquire oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and so forth.

The same support should be extended to increase bed and admission capacity in the Khomas region because it is evident that more and more people could get severely sick and would require hospitalisation," urged the governor.

Measures welcomed

Meanwhile, commentators have welcomed the new measures imposed by government to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country. Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) executive director Graham Hopwood welcomed the intervention, saying more needs to be done to control the spread of the virus.

He also believes measures announced by

the Head of State are sensible as it still allows the economy to function. "The only thing missing is the dire situation in Windhoek hospitals with the overflowing of patients, with some being turned away, and other issues such as the lack of oxygen tanks. I hope the government will address that issue," he remarked.

He said the partial lockdown is practical, and that is because the affected areas are the epicentres of the virus. Hopwood said there is a need to control movements if the numbers of cases are not brought under control within two weeks.

The National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) also endorsed the action by the President, citing sharply rising deaths as a concern.

"This is putting a lot of pressure on the

health system and our mortuaries. It is evident that Windhoek remains the hotspot during the third wave," said Nudo secretary general Joseph Kauandenge.

He added that large gatherings such as weddings and funerals are super-spreaders of the virus.

"We do not want one death to cause many deaths. We are in trying times, and need to adapt and adjust to the new normal. We need a serious paradigm shift," he observed.

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