Covid marches north
Medical experts say it is now a crucial time for residents of northern Namibia to be extra vigilant, as Covid-19 infections soared to 7 550 cases countrywide by yesterday afternoon, with the virus slowly but surely gaining a foothold in the north.
01 September 2020 | Health
As Covid-19 cases continue to climb across the country, Oshakati State Hospital medical superintendent Dr Korbinian Vizkaya Amutenya has warned that the Oshana Region could be the country's next epicentre after Walvis Bay and Windhoek.
Sharing the same sentiments, country director for the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Eric Dziuban, said there is a lot of travel between Windhoek and communities in the north, so it is not surprising to see the rise in cases.
Yesterday afternoon, Namibia recorded 185 new cases and three more deaths, bringing the national tally to 7 550, with 3 327 recoveries, 4 148 active cases and 75 fatalities.
After travel restrictions were lifted in the epicentre coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, as well as Arandis, snaking long-distance bus queues have been observed, as people travel northwards.
Dziuban said the increase in coronavirus cases in the northern parts of the country could be the beginning of local transmission in these areas.
“This is a crucial time for northern people to be extra vigilant. More social distancing and masks means less need for quarantine and fewer cases being managed by the health system. At the same time, government can be expanding the facilities for those who cannot isolate themselves at home safely. If we act decisively now, the impact will be greater than if we wait until the numbers in the north are already spiking,” he warned.
Medical staff ready
Amutenya assured the nation that nurses and other healthcare workers at Oshakati are ready to assist.
He urged nurses to “always put on a smiling face” to encourage those in hospital and relatives who have sick family members or have lost loved ones to the virus.
“All we need to do is to hold hands. Coronavirus does not recognise political affiliations. As Namibians we should come together. It should be collective efforts from all. Despite the shortcomings, our staff at the frontline are trying the best they can,” he said.
Oshikoto health director Josua Nghipangelwa said his region has three testing facilities: Onandjokwe Intermediate Hospital, Omuthiya District Hospital and Tsumeb District Hospital.
In addition, Nghipangelwa said the region has a dedicated team in all three districts who perform contact tracing and test people at home.
The region also has three isolation facilities. The Tsumeb District isolation facility has 16 beds for Covid-19 patients who need hospital treatment with oxygen or mechanical ventilation. Omuthiya has an isolation facility with 18 beds, while Onandjokwe has an isolation facility with 40 beds.
“In addition, Onandjokwe has two quarantine facilities with 30 beds combined, as well as one house with self-contained rooms to accommodate healthcare workers assigned to Covid-19 patients. “Tsumeb has one quarantine facility with 96-bed capacity that can be increased to 156 when demand rises. Omuthiya has two quarantine facilities with 16 beds combined,” Nghipangelwa said, adding that the region has six ventilators. By Friday, Oshikoto had traced 1 339 contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The Omusati regional health director, Alfons Amoomo, said the region has four testing facilities at Okahao District Hospital, Oshikuku District Hospital, Tsandi District Hospital and Outapi District Hospital.
The region has one isolation facility at the Outapi District Hospital and so far only 17 confirmed cases are in isolation there.
“Due to anticipated increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the country, plans are under way to reactivate isolation facilities at all districts. The region has seven ventilators and one continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine,” Amoomo said. By Saturday, the region had identified 289 contacts, of whom 277 were tested for Covid-19, 204 were discharged and 10 tested positive.
The Oshana regional health director, Johanna Haimene, said the region has one testing facility at the Eluwa Clinic in Ongwediva and a second one will be opened in Ondangwa in two weeks' time. Haimene said there were fewer than ten ventilators in the region but the number was expected to be increased soon. More than 500 contacts have been traced in the region.
Ohangwena health director John Hango was unable to say how many ventilators the region has but said they were learning how to use them.
“We do not have a testing facility. We do swabbing and send the swabs to Oshakati NIP or sometimes Windhoek for testing. Swabbing is done in all three districts - Engela, Eenhana and Okongo. Swabbing is not only done in the hospitals but also other places such as the Oshikango border post quarantine facilities,” Hango said. The region has two isolation facilities at the Engela and Okongo hospitals. There is one being built at Eenhana. Ohangwena has so far identified 478 possible Covid-19 contacts.
While emphasising that all Namibians should take the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic seriously and that discipline begins at home, President Hage Geingob announced this past Friday that stage three of the coronavirus state of emergency was extended to all regions for an additional 14 days, effective from 29 August until midnight on 12 September.
The president also announced that travel restrictions in and out of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis have been lifted. However, travel restrictions for the Windhoek, Okahandja and Rehoboth local authorities remain in place. Geingob also said that it takes an average of three days for Namibia to record 1 000 new Covid-19 cases. A daily curfew is now imposed nationally between 20:00 and 05:00, Geingob said further.
Gatherings across the country are limited to 10 people. Vocational training centres (VTCs) and universities will continue operating across the country. Face-to-face instruction may be conducted, where prescribed health and safety standards have been met.
Countrywide early childhood development (ECD) learning and face-to-face instruction for grades zero to nine will resume from 7 September. Grade 10 to 12 pupils will continue with face-to-face classes.