by Ester Mbathera and Charmaine Ngatjiheue

WALVIS Bay, which has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Namibia, is short of 600 beds for quarantine purposes.

The coastal town’s Covid-19 response team is in dire need of beds for contact isolation.

The beds are part of a list of requirements sent to Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge’s office on 18 June.

In email correspondence seen by The Namibian yesterday, the acting senior medical officer at Walvis Bay State Hosptial, Dr Martha Ntinda, said the hospital also requires accommodation facilities for medical staff, six cellphones, 100 boxes of copy paper, 1 000 personal protective equipment (masks, face shields, goggles and overalls) five vehicles and two 14-seater minibuses. The hospital also requested for catering services.

“The team is seriously hindered by logistical challenges and urgently needs the assistance of the stakeholders to effectively respond to the Covid-19 outbreak in Walvis Bay district,” said Ntinda. Ntinda did not respond to The Namibian’s questions regarding the emailed letter yesterday. However, Ipinge confirmed the correspondence.

The Namibian understands that Walvis Bay Urban constituency yesterday afternoon delivered the six smartphones. By Sunday (21 June) the town reported roughly 12 new cases of Covid-19.

This is out of 15 cases the country recorded over the weekend, bringing Namibia’s total to 55 cases.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula yesterday announced that Namibia recorded nine new Covid-19 cases, of which seven were from Kuisebmund, at Walvis Bay. Most of these cases reported at that town were local transmissions, with links to case 32.

Shangula stressed that this is the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak that Namibia has recorded nine cases in a single day.

“I must just add that this is the first time ever that we have recorded nine new cases within 24-hours. Seven cases are from Walvis Bay, and three are the family [members] of case 35 – the father, a brother and son. Four others are also from Kuisebmund [Walvis Bay] with no known contacts to confirmed cases. Two are travel-related and both are in quarantine facilities,” he said.

The minister said case 32 gave rise to case 34 which gave rise to other cases at Kuisebmund.

“This is a cluster transmission in a close setting. These cases are a clear demonstration that our strategy of contact identification and isolation is bearing fruit. The number of these cases should therefore not cause panic or alarm,” he said.

From the two new cases, one is a two-year-old bioy, case 48, and the other a 10-year-old girl, case 41. Both cases are from Walvis Bay.

Shangula said Namibia now has 19 recoveries and 36 active cases, out of a total of 7 009 samples tested. Yesterday alone, 172 samples were tested, nine of which came back positive.

NO CONFIDENCE IN ERONGO HEALTH LEADERSHIP

Meanwhile, the Erongo region corona care committee has (ERCC) accused regional public health director Anna Jonas and medical officer Dr Amir Shaker, of being evasive and not forthcoming with information regarding the status of the region’s preparedness to fight Covid-19.

The ERCC is a joint effort consisting of volunteers from the government, regional and local authorities, private and business communities and political parties that was formed three months ago to map out a strategy to supplement government efforts.

A member of the committee from the private sector, Anton Pretorius, said health officials in the region have not shared any strategies nor reports of what they have done so far.

“The public has no idea of what is happening,” Pretorius said.

The latest preliminary findings by a multi-disciplinary technical team from the ministry of health are that the region was not fully prepared to handle the pandemic, which poses a threat of exporting the virus to the rest of the country.

Members of the ERCC, however, said the region would have been ready had health officials been forthcoming with information.

They said they submitted a strategic plan to the regional leadership which includes the Office of the Governor, the chairperson of the Erongo regional council, the chief regional officer and the regional health director, on 14 April.

The plan was endorsed on 15 April by Dr Shaker, the chairperson of the regional disaster risk management committee Juuso Kambueshe, Welwitschia Hospital chief executive officer Matthias Braune, Dr Wolfgang Tiez, a senior healthcare practitioner and Anton Pretorius, shareholder and director of Namdock. All it needed was national approval, the committee said.

“This incompetence is primarily a result of the health ministry’s regional leadership and their condescending inability to listen, hear, and understand the needs and expectations of the people,” said Pretorius.

Swapo Party district information coordinator for Walvis Bay Urban constituency Claudius Aikera, who is part of the ERCC team, blamed the delays on the health ministry’s “bureaucratic systems”, which led to the delay of the construction of a 150-bed Covid-19 field hospital at Walvis Bay.

“The business community gave money to build the facility. But there was somehow a problem. We sorted it out. I blame the ministry of health as they were not forthcoming,” said Aikera.

By the time of going to print, Erongo health officials and the ERCC committee members were locked in an urgent meeting with regional governor Neville Andre over the situation.

Walvis Bay Urban constituency councillor Knowledge Ipinge, as head of the constituency risk management committee, called for the resignation of the Erongo health director and medical officer, accusing them of sabotaging the region’s readiness and response plan to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

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