CHARMAINE NGATJIHEUE and SHELLEYGAN PETERSEN

MINISTER of health and social services Kalumbi Shangula says the increasing number of intensive care unit (ICU) Covid-19 patients and hospitalisations is worrying for Namibia, indicating that Namibians have stopped being cautious.

The number of people hospitalised and in ICU after contracting the virus has been on the rise with intensive care unit (ICU) patients hovering around 40 from 1 May to 45 on 8 May, a situation Shangula described as worrying.

In an interview with The Namibian yesterday, Shangula said the spike in ICU cases actually started on 23 April, which recorded the highest number since the beginning of the year.

Moreover, Namibia recorded 341 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, the highest number of new cases since the beginning of April.

“We need to pull up our socks. There is no behavioural change from us at all. People are very relaxed and life is going on as normal for them compared to their behaviour last year at the start of the pandemic where they took it very seriously,” he said.

He added that even though people are being vaccinated in Namibia and are getting some level of immunity, the level of immunity or how long the immunity will last is not yet known.

“This is why we are encouraging Namibians to get vaccinated,” he said.

So far, 37 578 people have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccines.

The minister urged Namibians to exercise extreme caution to avoid infection and avoid the situation unfolding in India. Moreover, South African laboratories found that a Covid-19 variant from India was in that country. However, Shangula could not say whether Namibia is testing for that variant. Instead, he said all Covid-19 variants, whether mutated or not, remain dangerous.

“All of them are our enemies, whether the South African variant or Indian variant. All are equally dangerous,” he explained.

A specialist physician in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Dr Ishmael Katjitae, recently described the horrible feeling ICU patients experience. “Imagine someone putting a pillow on your face and sitting on top of you. That is what they [ICU patients] feel when they are breathing,” he said.

Katjitae said patients on ventilators have more breathing difficulty and would require sedation.

The physician explained that despite the oxygen, they often put the patients on machines to help them breath and sometimes sedate them so that they do not experience the discomfort of pipes in their faces and throats,

If all these measures do not work, the patients will die, which is what the country has been witnessing, he added.

Katjitae described the increasing number of ICU cases and deaths as “bad” in relation to Namibia’s population.

“We cannot afford to bleed out so many people. Unfortunately, those numbers are going up every day,” he added.

Former Centres for Disease Control country director in Namibia Eric Dzuiban last week said Namibia can avoid the situation being experienced in India right now by staying focused on what has worked for the country last year.

“Any country could still have another wave and it could be much worse than the ones that have already come. It’s like being in a close match with just a few minutes left on the clock. It’s not the time to walk off the field and lose the progress that has been made,” he said.

Dzuiban added that after the second wave started coming down from its peak at the end of December, the number of cases and deaths in Namibia never dropped as low as the numbers after the first wave.

“Most days have [recorded] between 100 and 300 new cases and Namibians are dying of the virus each day. This means we need to be vigilant so things don’t get worse,” Dzuiban explained.

Covid-19 deaths currently stand at 683, while total confirmed cases stand at 49 893, as of Saturday.

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