Cabinet to decide on lockdown
Cabinet is expected to decide today whether to extend or lift the current lockdown in the Khomas and Erongo regions, with no new cases of coronavirus infections reported in the past week.
But observers have warned against lifting the lockdown just yet, especially after the government shelved plans to conduct mass tests to determine the extent of potential danger. By yesterday, neighbouring South Africa, which has extended its lockdown for another two weeks, had tested 80 000 people in a mass testing campaign. By Sunday, 145 new cases had been detected – vindicating President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to extend the lockdown, as the country remains largely unsafe for people to start mingling freely again.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila yesterday told Namibian Sun that the last deliberative Cabinet session, which she chairs, had forwarded its lockdown recommendations to the decision-making session of Cabinet which President Hage Geingob chairs. She would not divulge what the recommendations are. “We took stock of all the progress made so far and discussed the pros and cons of lifting the lockdown but no decision is made yet,” she said.
“All measures in place are being pursued vigorously. We meeting today and tomorrow [Monday and Tuesday] so after all this, the decision will be made.”
No mass tests
Like Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, health minister Kalumbi Shangula confirmed yesterday that Namibia had elected not to exercise the mass testing option.
This is despite the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) declaring recently that it had boosted its capacity to test 'thousands' of people.
Instead, the government will depend on the rate of the spread of the disease as a guiding tool.
Shangula made the comments when asked what the government's strategy would be to determine how many people were infected with the disease.
“The decision will be based on the number of people tested. We will be looking at the basic reproduction ratio of the disease. The decision will be based on the ratio of the spread of the disease in Namibia … that will be used to determine the activeness of the disease,” he said.
According to Shangula, mass testing would not be a useful metric.
“That is not useful to us as public health specialists. We are increasing the number of people to be tested but we are not looking at a specific number of people.”
The minister also informed Namibian Sun that NIP had acquired a testing machine that enabled it to test up to 96 samples at any given time.
“The number we are able to test is 96 people in one run … we are at 30% [capacity],” Shangula said.