As expected, sign-in books are a waste of time

Earlier in the state of emergency over the pandemic, we did an editorial stating that the sign-in mandate before entering shops or businesses as a method to assist in pandemic tracing efforts was a complete waste of time and energy. Namibia has neither the resources nor capacity for metadata processing. Now, recent reports in the Namibian newspaper headlines today force us to declare: “We told you so.”

There is no long term, consistent ‘will’ to trace people by using those books. Those collecting the data are bored with the entire exercise. Those forced to sign-in, see it as time-wasting joke.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Our weakest link in the pandemic response mechanism nationwide was the ridiculous demand that every shop or business keep a register of who enters with information for contract tracing those people should someone who was also there that day, test positive for the disease.

In theory, it sounds nice. Contact tracing is important. In Namibia, such a system was dead on arrival, before the first notebook was set on a table. There is no culture in Namibia of signing in before entering everywhere we go. The timeline for teaching people about the necessity of doing it was short.

The data requested was intrusive and exposed people to identity theft. Why was an ID number required? Everyone must guard their ID numbers closely. In our country, we know well that there is no correlation between the ID# and an address and phone number. Having an ID# will not assist in contact tracing. And yet, it was required.

Worse, the people ‘supervising’ the contract tracing had no authority to check the ID or other information given. One could write in any ID# and the person standing there forcing you to sign has no way of knowing if it were true or not.

The same problem is the case for names, phone numbers and addresses. People could (and did) write in any name they wanted in those books and there was no one the wiser and no downside to doing so. It is a mini-rebellion against the useless exercise of signing in.

Many of us signed in behind Nelson Mandela or Donald Trump. When we filled out our line, we looked above and saw telephone numbers with all zeros or all of one number. We saw addresses of, ‘the moon’, ‘Eiffel Tower, Paris’, 221B Baker Street, London, and ‘Santa’s House, the North Pole. Namibians have great imaginations.

Lately, the column for ID# is completely blank. A few people have written that they will NOT give their ID# to anyone. And we agree on this latter point. No one should be asked to expose their individual national identity number in such a flagrant, unprotected, manner.

This entire sign-in book exercise was yet another imported idea from the foreign medical experts (they probably have already left Namibia to go back to their headquarters by now) that applies in developed countries with computerized systems and has no efficacy in Namibia.

The only one reviewing those books as they pile up in basements and storerooms will be the spiders.

Clicks no longer requires a sign-in. Most stores now leave the book by the door with no staff allocated to forcing people to sign in or spray hand sanitizers. Some places have the book so far into the store that you have to hunt to find it. So what’s the point?

It is reported that other store managers are complaining about the piling of the unopened ‘registers’ all over their storerooms. No one has come to search for a single name on a single date. This is an onerous and unnecessary process. Demanding the useless sign-in books kills credibility for the entire COVID protection efforts. It taints the useful protection methods such as the masks, handwashing and social spacing.

Give us a break. There is pandemic fatigue already. Let’s not make things worse by asking for compliance with regulations are are unnecessary. Ban the sign-in books!

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