Corona peak 'still coming'

The health ministry executive director says they are working with World Health Organisation experts to establish a possible peak for Covid-19 infections in Namibia, while stressed Erongo residents continue to turn to booze, amid rising cases in especially Walvis Bay.

29 June 2020 | Health

JEMIMA BEUKES AND ADOLF KAURE

WINDHOEK/WALVIS BAY



With the country's Covid-19 cases reaching 150 yesterday morning, there were 105 confirmed cases in the Erongo Region, of which 100 are in Walvis Bay alone.

It was announced yesterday morning that all 14 new cases are from the harbour town.

According to health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe there are at least 105 isolation beds in Erongo, of which 63 are in Walvis Bay.

“Most of the cases who test positive do not require hospitalisation and what we have decided is that people who do not require hospitalisation will be isolated elsewhere, because they are not sick, so that we know that the beds are open for people who need hospitalisation,” he said.

He added that currently some of the positive cases are in fact isolated in a hospital set-up. Nangombe also said the ministry's scientists are working alongside WHO experts to determine a possible peak of infections countrywide. He said the information will be shared as soon as possible, but added that “it is still early to determine whether we have reached a peak yet”.



Challenges

According to the latest Covid-19 situation report posted on the WHO website, Namibia is faced with inadequate isolation units in the regions and an inadequate supply of protective personal equipment (PPE).





Nangombe confirmed these challenges yesterday, but pointed out that they are not unique to Namibia in the Covid-19 context.

“We have engaged our counterparts in South Africa at governmental level and the restrictions imposed by South Africa on the export of medicinal and clinical items have been revisited.

“We are acquiring as we go along and we are also engaging with our embassies in other countries. There is high competition and high demand and the availability of PPE and other items are a challenge,” he said.

South Africa, which is the continent's biggest producer and exporter of these items, recently introduced export restrictions on Covid-19-related products.

This has resulted in countries like Namibia having to source these much-needed products from Europe and China.

According to Nangombe, the ministry has received some nasopharyngeal swabs from Germany in the last two weeks and more are still to be delivered. “For now, the stock we have is very adequate to deal with the number of cases that we are faced [with], including to cater for the extended targeted testing programme we are busy with,” he said.

A leaked letter written to Knowledge Iipinge, the chairperson of the Walvis Bay constituency disaster and risk management committee and Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor, suggested that the Walvis Bay hospital is in need of two 14-seater mini-buses and five sedans or double cab bakkies.

The letter also stated that the Walvis Bay State Hospital needs 30 rooms to accommodate medical staff, a 600-bed capacity facility and also six cellphones for logistical purposes as well as 1 000 units of PPE.

It was written by the acting senior medical officer of the Walvis Bay State Hospital, Dr Martha Ntinda, who referred questions to the ministry's public relations department.

Nangombe yesterday said their needs are being addressed.



Female face

Meanwhile, statistics show that most of the Covid-19 cases are between 20 and 49 years old, and that over 70% are female. WHO representative Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses said there is a need to review behaviour patterns within communities, but added this could be due to the type of socialisation or interaction between the cases and their contacts.

“The more risks we take in terms of avoiding mask-wearing, handwashing and physical and social distancing, the more likely we are to get infected. We first need to review the behaviour patterns… before we address other risk factors such as women caring for sick family members who may be infected,” he said.

Nangombe said many of the Covid-19 patients in Walvis Bay are employed at fish factories and on assembly lines.

“You have more women working in these facilities than their male counterparts. I do not think it is a scientific occurrence which suggests women are more at risk. It is just about where they work and where they find themselves,” he said.



Stressed Erongo residents turn to booze

Meanwhile, Erongo governor Neville Andre has expressed concern over the high level of alcohol dependency amongst residents of the region.

According to him, more has to be done by social workers to ensure that residents receive the needed psycho-social help, especially during the current challenging times.

“We need to really start with engagements to discuss the use of alcohol in the country. The same person who is complaining of hunger will go out running to the bottle store to buy alcohol to drink.

“The abuse of alcohol is a problem,” Andre said at a weekly Covid-19 briefing at the Swakopmund municipal chambers last Friday, adding that “stressful experiences during lockdown are also part of the issues that need to be addressed”.

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