Gondwana boss decries WHO health protocols

The CEO of a Namibian tourism group has told the UN secretary-general that the world body's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been “shocking”.

15 October 2020 | Tourism

OGONE TLHAGE

WINDHOEK

Tourism boss Gys Joubert has decried the World Health Organisation’s health protocols in a letter to United Nations secretary-general António Guterres.

Joubert is the CEO of the Gondwana Collection Group, which recently led a quiet demonstration in which it asked the Namibian government to open several border posts to help save the tourism sector.

The sector has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic after the government opted to close Namibia’s borders to tourists.

“Mr Guterres, I am tired and battle weary. Tired of having to fight for a great Namibian company, fight for 1 102 employees. Not merely represent them, no we are forced to actively fight for them. This fight represents hundreds of thousands of Namibians, people who are suffering because of what we are doing to them,” wrote Joubert.

More harm than good

Joubert reasoned that the WHO’s one-size-fits-all approach has done more damage than good, particularly for Namibia.

“There were so many unknowns back then and the WHO’s projections for Africa were dire. Over the past few months, still mostly under strict protocols we had multiple breakouts but the doom and gloom in terms of deaths never came. Our hospitals were never overrun,” wrote Joubert.

He also questioned why the WHO had not updated its response to the pandemic as more is learned about the disease.

“Why, more than seven months into this, have we seen no change in strategy, despite the truth of this virus in our reality? Our median age in Namibia is 22. The WHO even admitted that they cannot completely explain why Africa is doing so well relatively speaking, yet no change in strategy,” he questioned.

The WHO guidelines, Joubert wrote, were doing damage to the economy.

“You see, Mr Guterres, our minister of health, Dr Shangula, is dictating and destroying our future strictly along WHO guidelines. We will pay for these decisions for at least the next ten years. I assume the next decade is on you, Mr Guterres?”

‘Shocking response’

Joubert also took issue with the UN’s response to the pandemic, calling it shocking.

“The complete lack of leadership on an international level is rather shocking. To recommend lockdowns and the destruction of industries like tourism comes quick and easy, yet more than seven months down the line there is no agreed protocol for the opening of that same industry,” he wrote.

“It is simply a self-inflicted slow suicide of the fastest growing international industry,” he added.

Namibia’s listing as a high-risk country despite its low Covid-19 numbers was also a sticking point Joubert took issue with.

“With around 50 infections per day of 2.5 million people in a country almost twice the size of France, we must be one of the safest destinations in the world, yet we are on every European red list,” he said.

Namibia has so far recorded just over 12 000 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

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