Employers sending their staff to be tested for COVID-19 may be unwittingly responsible for spreading it further.
Anyone driving by the Robert Mugabe Clinic has seen the tightly packed lines of people waiting to be tested. Some are waiting for their COVID-19 results. There is no social spacing and most have their noses uncovered as they improperly wear masks.
There are those who are there who have been called in to collect their written results. A few of those results are positive. Those who are positive are standing amongst those who are negative or those waiting for results. This is a perfect storm of COVID ignorance in action.
If anyone wants to know why the infection rates are going up so fast in Windhoek, the situation at the Robert Mugabe Clinic is one answer.
Employers forcing their employees to take the COVID test are living on a false sense of security. Someone not infected is standing behind someone who has tested positive or in front of someone with unknown test results.
The people who have tested positive are having their names called out in public by healthcare workers announcing results. What happened to privacy about medical information? Take those people seeking their results to a private area. Give the results and information about the next step.
Telling those without resources who are positive to go home and self-isolate is fatally simplistic. It is like taking someone with a bleeding gunshot wound and telling them to walk home and take Panadol. We must have aggressive COVID support systems and follow-up mechanisms in place. This is not happening to someone else; it is happening to all of us who have to live with the fall out.
One wonders how many people with positive results and mild effects are told to self-isolate are instead returning to work. Many are under terrible pressure not to lose much-needed income.
How many of those employers who are busy sending their workers to be screened have through the same process? The workers have a right to know that their supervisors are COVID free. Management can spread the disease too.
Employers should realize that workers testing negative yesterday is no guarantee of a pandemic free workpace tomorrow? Standing in line at the Mugabe clinic waiting for their results, behind someone who is positive could change everything.
Those testing positive are supposed to be sent to quarantine in ambulances. But, there are insufficient ambulances for this purpose. Therefore, some are being told to self-isolate. They hop in taxis to travel home to do this. What about the driver or other passengers? What about those who enter the taxi after the infected person gets out? (No one is cleaning those seats off with disinfectant.)
We must address this situation as a matter of urgency. The Robert Mugabe Clinic may have become an incubation center for the disease, instead of a place of health and well-being.
Namibian cultural norms make social distancing on a consistent basis highly unlikely. People forced to socially space by officials in one place, revert to their natural sardine-packed form of queues in another.
Poverty means that repeated hand washing with soap will always be an unattainable expectation for most. Hand sanitizers are expensive for those who struggle to have enough drinking water.
We must get our systems organized to do the best we can in such an impossible situation. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Right now, the Robert Mugabe Clinic is a weak link.
We must do better.