Corona anger boils over in Walvis Bay

There are calls for bed-and-breakfast establishments, guesthouses and warehouses to be used for Covid-19 patients in Walvis Bay, as the harbour town continues to evolve into the epicentre of the virus outbreak in Namibia.

22 June 2020 | Health

LEANDREA LOUW AND ELLANIE SMIT

WALVIS BAY/WINDHOEK



Anger is boiling over in Walvis Bay, which has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Namibia with 20 cases out of the country's current 55, over a 150-bed isolation facility that is yet to get off the ground since March this year. This delay has been laid firmly at the feet of the health ministry, with even Swapo representatives joining the chorus of those lambasting the ministry's representatives in the region.

This comes as the town is running out of isolation facilities for its growing number of Covid-19 patients. Seven of the country's nine new coronavirus cases announced yesterday are from Kuisebmond in the fishing town, including a two-year-old child.





Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge said the Disaster Risk Management Act is clear.

“If we find ourselves in a situation such as this, it states that we can claim property to isolate people or place them in quarantine. The onus now rests on those as authorised officers to make decisions. We have bed-and-breakfast establishments, as well as guesthouses standing idle that can be utilised. We have warehouses. Claim these properties! Let Peya Mushelenga and Kalumbi Shangula come to Walvis Bay. Let them come see what is happening on the ground,” Ipinge said angrily.

Erongo is currently at stage one of the Covid-19 lockdown and state of emergency, which is supposed to end at midnight today.

Shangula, who claimed there were enough isolation facilities in Walvis Bay, said yesterday's announcement was the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic that Namibia had recorded nine cases within a period of 24 hours.

He said 7 009 samples had been tested for the virus and 700 people were still in quarantine facilities.



Family

Three of the positive cases in Kuisebmond are family members of case number 35 and they include his two-year-old son, 56-year-old father and 21-year-old brother.

The other four Kuisebmond cases had no contact with other confirmed cases and are women: two 28-year-olds, a 33-year-old and a 36-year-old.

Shangula could not confirm how many isolation beds were available at the harbour town.

“This is not important. What is important is that I can tell you that all the necessary precautions have been made and we will be able to accommodate everyone.”

The other two positive cases announced yesterday are travel-related and include a 28-year-old Indian woman who travelled from South Africa and a 56-year-old South African living in Namibia. They are both in quarantine facilities.



Calls for heads to roll

Iipinge has meanwhile called for the resignation of the health ministry's chief medical officer for Erongo, Dr Amir Shakir, and regional health director Anna Jonas.

“They have failed the people of Walvis Bay. We should take ownership and responsibility. I failed the people of Walvis Bay. I submitted recommendations for which I still cannot provide answers because they are sitting on top of bureaucracy.”

In March 2020, the Welwitschia Private Hospital established the Corona Care Campaign aimed at assisting Walvis Bay and Swakopmund state hospitals. Additionally, a 150-bed medical facility was launched with much excitement on 26 March by the Walvis Bay Urban constituency risk disaster management team, in collaboration with the private hospital and the business community. This construction has been standing still ever since.

The Corona Care Campaign later evolved into the Erongo Corona Care Initiative.

Anton Pretorius, a member of the Erongo Region Corona Care Initiative, expressed dissatisfaction and outrage. The initiative has been at the forefront of a well-coordinated strategy for the region to ease the pressure on the health ministry.



'Unbelievably disappointed'

“We have been unbelievably disappointed that the grand plan could not take off the ground, as it aligned with the request by the president and the failure to engage the community was due to incompetency. This incompetence is primarily as a result of the ministry of health and social services regional leadership's and their condescending inability to listen, hear, and understand the needs and expectations of the people of the Walvis Bay rural and urban constituencies. They have done absolutely nothing the past three months and now the community has to suffer.”

According to Pretorius, Dr Shakir had predicted that the region would only record 210 cases by January 2021.



Swapo supportive

Pretorius explained that local Swapo representatives have been supportive and assisted with all the means at their disposal.

“They have engaged with the communities and voiced their frustration and communicated the hardship of the people to the Erongo Region Corona Care task team.”

Cladius Ikera, an information and mobilisation officer for Swapo, said committees have been working hard to finalise the isolation centres.

“There was a delay caused by the ministry of health. The business community was providing the funds for these facilities.”

He agreed that politics was not part of the initiative.

“We were all together on the same team. It had nothing to do with positions in parties. The support from top was not there. They were not as transparent as they should have been. Everything should have been done by now.”

Pretorius reiterated that the ministry was warned about the exponential Covid-19 curve.

Attempts to reach Jonas and Dr Shakir were unsuccessful.

Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe said he first needs to get information from the ground.

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