by Charmaine Ngatjiheue and Ester Mbathera
NAMIBIA has surpassed other African countries on the rate at which the country is reporting new cases of the coronavirus.
As per global statistics, Namibia now tops African countries in the number of confirmed cases reported daily, with an average of eight cases per 100 000 people daily.
South Africa is reported to be at seven cases per 100 000 people, minister of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula said over the weekend.
As of Saturday, the country’s total cases stood at 5 538, with Friday and Saturday reporting a record number of 315 and 311, respectively. Since Friday, five Covid-19 related deaths were reported.
Of these cases, Windhoek reported the highest cases at 223 on Friday, and 171 on Saturday.
Shangula said movement restrictions, which were instituted on 12 August 2020 for Windhoek including Rehoboth and Okahandja local authority areas, in addition to those applied to Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis local authority areas, are intended to reduce the number of people each confirmed case infects.
“The goal is to keep the basic reproduction ratio below one, which means that each case infects less than one other person, on average. This is a measure, which ensures that the pandemic is brought under control,” he said.
He added that the lockdown aims to reverse epidemic growth by reducing case numbers to low levels, thereby suppressing the transmission rate.
“As painful as it may be for many of us, it does work. Therefore, we should not see these measures as punitive, but let’s embrace them and comply. This is the weapon we have to curb further transmission,” he said.
The minister further stressed that authorities have observed a trend where people sneak out of restricted areas to other parts of the country and they pose a danger of transmitting the virus.
World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Charles Sagoe-Moses said the high number of cases were recorded in the past six weeks as a result of the spread of local transmissions at Walvis Bay and in Windhoek.
He said in a Covid-19 situation report for the country on Friday that the enhanced active case search, targeted testing, daily surveillance from different districts also contributed to the high Covid-19 numbers being reported.
“There is evidence of clustered community transmissions in Erongo and Khomas. Cumulatively, 98,4% of the cases are local transmissions while 1,6% are imported,” he said.
Sagoe-Moses added that a total of 189 healthcare workers are confirmed to have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in 10 regions.
Khomas region reported the highest number of infected health care workers at 127, followed by Erongo at 43, Oshana and Hardap four each; Zambezi three; Omusati and Kharas two each and one case each from Hardap, Otjozondjupa, Omusati and Oshikoto regions.
Sagoe-Moses said although Windhoek is now the epicentre of Covid-19 after Walvis Bay, cases are picking up at a fast rate in Oshana region, with an average of four being reported daily.
The country representative added that Namibia faces a challenge in a backlog of specimens at the Namibia Institute of Pathology, overwhelming the laboratory and delaying the turn-around time.
He said the country also has inadequate intensive care unit facilities and equipment at referral hospitals and high care units. The country also has inadequate ambulances and isolation units at health facilities in the different regions.
Meanwhile, the Erongo region is short of testing kits and is therefore not optimally testing inhabitants for Covid-19.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services confirmed this and said the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) does not have enough test kits.
Dr Mariette Mouton, Medical Superitendent at the Swakopmund State Hospital last week during the governor’s Covid-19 update said the ministry previously tested up to 120 people per day, but this has dropped drastically due to the huge backlog at the NIP, and because Windhoek is currently prioritised.
This has put huge strain on the NIP’s facilities, she said.
“Some days they would inform us they can only test 50, but some days when they receive more sample test kits, they would do about 100 tests per day,” Mouton said.
She urged the community to take their ID cards along when getting tested to ensure officials capture the correct information.
“We have a very big problem. People are coming for tests without their identity documents resulting in names being misspelt, and ages being incorrect. When the result is presented it becomes a problem with the security cluster if names are not spelt correctly,” she said.
The ministry has also noticed an increase in the number of people wanting to travel out of the region, who need to be tested.
This results in a delay of people with symptoms being tested.
Erongo health director Anna Jonas said this could be the reason for the sudden reduction of positive cases in the region, which the ministry is now investigating.
“We are trying to strengthen our contact tracing in terms of testing and also to do an analysis to see what type of people we are testing. As indicated, we have a high number of people who are travelling out of the region. Similarly, we are continuing with active case searches through our mobile and static teams,” Jonas said.
Travel permits to leave the region are issued by police station commanders to anyone who has a valid reason.
Once the station commander is satisfied with the reason, applicants must be tested.
Police deputy commissioner Tobias Gelber has advised the public to ensure they have confirmed their quarantine facility in the next host region before they leave a restricted area.
“Make sure on your travelling permit there is a reference number of who you are going to call at your next destination for quarantine. We do not block people from leaving the region, we will help you to go, but it should be through procedures and in consideration of the next region,” Gelber said.