by Hileni Nembwaya

NAMIBIA’S northern regions are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases as many of its inhabitants are returning from the Erongo region.

Image used for illustrative purposes.

The high movement of people from the former epicentre of the pandemic in the country to the northern regions is raising fears as the number of cases continue to rise.

As of 5 September the Oshana region has recorded a total of 169 cases and three deaths, and the Omusati region recorded a total of 35 cases and one death.

The Ohangwena region by 5 September had a total of 93 cases and one death, and the Oshikoto region 91 cases.

No Covid-19 cases were reported in the four northern regions in the past two days.

Many people migrating from the Erongo region to the northern towns are citing hunger, unemployment and the possible further spread of the virus as some of their major reasons for travelling north.

Ben Nangombe, executive director of health and social services, recently noted with concern the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions.

Johanna Haimene, director of health in the Oshana region, echoed the same sentiments, saying one of the major contributing factors to the rise of Covid-19 cases in the region is the high movement of people from high-risk areas to the north, and large gatherings.

“We have observed a high number of people moving from high-risk areas to the northern regions, which is worrying. People really need to comply and prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

“Large gatherings such as weddings and funerals have also become a breeding ground for Covid-19 cases, hence people really need to avoid these and maintain social distancing at all times,” she said.

Haimene said the rise in cases also poses a risk to vulnerable groups, especially the elderly, as many people are now moving from urban to rural areas.

“It should be everyone’s responsibility to make sure we adhere to the health and safety protocols and make sure we do not infect our elderly and other vulnerable people intentionally. We should avoid large social gatherings at all times and wear our masks all the time,” Haimene said.

Josua Nghipangelwa, director of health in the Oshikoto region, said the rising number of Covid-19 cases is due to many large gatherings observed in the region recently and non-compliance with regulations.

“People here have a tendency of drinking in large groups, and most of them refuse to adhere to regulations. However, most cases recorded in the Onandjokwe district are of people coming from Ondangwa. We have also observed a high number of people travelling to our region from high-risk areas. We cannot control people’s movements, because they are allowed to travel as much as they want, but it is posing a high risk to people in the rural areas,” he said.

Nghipangelwa said the directorate has intensified its community education programme – especially in rural areas – to educate the masses on the dangers of Covid-19.

“Through our community education campaign we have observed many people, especially the elderly in rural areas, are adhering to regulations, and they also understand the dangers of Covid-19. We are still busy with our education campaign and are hoping to reach many more people. I would like to urge the public to refrain from attending large gatherings, to maintain social distancing, to wear masks and to practise hand washing and sanitising at all times,” he said.

John Hango, director of health for the Ohangwena region, could not be reached for comment.

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