Fear has been expressed that Namibia is not ready to withstand a new Covid-19 outbreak because of its low vaccination figures.
Public health experts in some areas relaxed its Covid-19 regulations too early and adopted liberal health protocols as the developed world that have over 70 percent of vaccination figures as opposed to Namibia’s just over 20 percent of the targeted population.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services is however confident that the Covid-19 health regulations are adequate to withstand an outbreak, while about a three-quarter of the targeted population remain unvaccinated.
The Executive Director in the Ministry, Ben Nangombe maintains that the widespread public concern about the lifting of the face mask mandate and increasing the number of people at public gatherings will not compromise the country’s ability to ride out a new Covid-19 wave.
Currently, only 446 857 people aged 18 years and older received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 30.3 percent of the targeted population of 1 471 973.
Other concerns are that over 70 percent of Namibians are vulnerable to possible Covid-19 infections, especially after Namibia recently reopened its borders with new regulations, that mandatory testing is not a requirement for entry into the country.
The country adopted these protocols from international bodies, despite them not supported by the current reality on the ground, and most of the citizens from those countries have high vaccination rates meaning high herd immunity, whilst in Namibia it gives off a sense of normalcy with no protection.
Many countries are completely lifting the restrictions to combat the coronavirus outbreak, with some dropping COVID passport requirements, others lifting mask mandates, and others restrictions on entering social areas, despite a drop in infections and high vaccination rates.
Despite a continued rise in case numbers, most European countries like Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Germany among others have begun to relax coronavirus regulations in response to high vaccination rates and the emergence of omicron as a dominant variant with mild symptoms.
Nangombe argued that the current regulations do not present a false sense of normalcy and said that as responsible citizens, people should act in appreciative conduct and not always be threatened by penalties and policies to act in the interest of their families and their own best interest.
This poses a risk to the local population who have no immune protection, Nangombe said, adding that with the current regulations it does not make sense to tell, ‘someone in the rain to take an umbrella to save the themselves from the downpour”.
“Government did not say people should not wear masks, it is just not mandatory and not under force of penalty, but it is recommended for one’s own safety,” he emphasised.
Since announcing the regulations, Windhoek Observer has observed a large increase of crowding in popular shopping malls with no worries of Covid-19 lurking in the corners.
The ED emphasised that the government’s response and preparedness is premised on the epidemiological situation in the country and the question of preserving lives and livelihoods.
“When we looked at the epidemiological situation in the country as it was on 15 March 2022, it indicated we could lessen the restrictions related to the wearing of masks and increase the number of gatherings and that we did with the best recommendations,” said Nangombe.
He affirmed that their responses are guarded by the best available scientific evidence and information at their disposal.
However, he said , “we need to create a balance between the protection of lives and livelihoods, so that is the rationale about what was decided and if the situation changes they will decide it accordingly.”
He says there is a need for people to take personal responsibility, for the lives of their families and all people within Namibia.