Andrew Kathindi

Namibia has ruled out new guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) (USA) that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to wear masks or adhere to social distancing in most settings.

According to the Minister of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) , Kalumbi Shangula, people who have been vaccinated are not necessarily out of the woods yet. “We are doing exactly what we are doing now. We are not changing anything,” said Shangula.

“I will then see, what is the basis for them saying so. Because if you’re vaccinated, you don’t immediately develop immunity. So, you still need to be protected. I need to see what is the basis for that conclusion.”

Namibia currently has two vaccines which people are getting, the Sinopharm, which was donated by the Chinese government, and doses of AstraZeneca, which was procured through the COVAX Facility and 30 000 doses donated by India.

According to media reports, USA’s CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, confirmed that it is safe for vaccinated people to go without masks in most indoor and outdoor settings, and they may participate in large activities without physical distancing.

Contacted for comment, Clinical Branch Chief for CDC Namibia, Dr Steven Hong ,however, stated that the new CDC guidance apply to the United States only as it is a reflection of the status of the COVID-19 epidemic there and the numbers of people vaccinated.

“Other countries may consider this guidance as they update their own rules. In Namibia the rules are based on the regulations issued by the Government. As the number of people getting vaccinated in Namibia increases, the Government may decide to change their guidance but this has not happened yet.”

Hong further stated that the current number of people who have been vaccinated in Namibia is low and that the country is very far from achieving herd immunity.

According to the Health Ministry, 45 003 people have been vaccinated with 1st doses of Sinopharm and AstraZeneca.

“We are also going into winter and there are real concerns that we will see a third wave. Therefore, it is very important that we all continue to practice prevention measures, such as wearing a mask, handwashing and keeping our distance,” Hong said.

This comes as Namibia has thus far recorded 50 733 cases. The country also this week reached more than 700 deaths, 704 precisely.