Namibia is waging the best fight it can against COVID-19. This is as good as it gets. But, death and infection rates are not going down. Perhaps, it is time to greatly reduce containment efforts and shift to prioritizing care for those who are symptomatic.
The long-time substandard state of the public healthcare system has been exposed by this pandemic. Attempts to force citizens to set aside cultural norms and practice social distancing will not work. We are on the brink of economic collapse and cannot withstand any more restrictions. The spectre of hopelessness, mass unemployment, undernourishment, poor government service delivery, and corruption may lead to political upheaval. We need a pandemic management course change.
Our well-intentioned best efforts to hold back the pandemic flood are not working. Perhaps it is time for a tactical surrender. Regulations should switch from disease prevention to assistance for those who are symptomatic. We lack the national will, capacity and financial resources to effectively do both.
For example, stop building separate quarantine facilities that cannot be maintained in the long run. Instead, build annexes to existing hospitals. Make them modern, well-equipped and fully-staffed new wards. They can be used beyond the COVID nightmare.
Include in the daily pandemic impact statistics, how many people are symptomatic and to what degree. The numbers could indicate that a statistically small percentage are hospitalized vs those who are infected overall. This this information could ease mounting COVID morbidity fears.
Unconstitutionally banning alcohol sales or implementing curfews does not reduce the rising pandemic infection rate. The numbers are going up when these social bans are in effect. If the goal is to decrease road accidents and reduced crime at night, then stop using COVID as cover. The police who are urging these restrictions do not have reduced infection rates as their priority.
The stampede of people leaving the coast where the infection rates are arguably no less than when the ban was originally imposed (decreased testing ≠ less infection), is telling. We have given in to financial, social and political realities. The pandemic has taken the back seat. To that extent, we have surrendered already.
Those untested thousands will soon arrive in their home villages. The pandemic will likely take root at a faster pace in those underserved areas. But, there will be no testing, so it won’t be measured or reported.
Imagine holding back a flooded river (the pandemic) with sandbags in order to keep from getting wet. One bag that is wrongly filled lets a stream of water through. As the pressure builds around the little opening, nearby bags weaken and more water pours through. Even if the other sandbags hold, the point of the entire barricade is rendered useless by the breech. We are soaked and standing hip deep in water. It is time to stop stacking sandbags and buy boats.
Weak sandbag #1 – The majority of Namibians will not consistently socially distance.
Weak sandbag #2 – In rural areas and impoverished urban areas, there is no running water in most homes. There cannot be regular hand washing.
Weak sandbag #3 – How do you ‘stay at home’ or ‘self-isolate’ when you live in a cold, dark tin shack and live in poverty?
Weak sandbag #4 – At stores and office buildings, signing in to help ‘tracing’ efforts is a joke. No one has the dedicated metadata entry software or computers or trained staff to utilize the information. The existing illegible hand written entries would take years to input. Those books are already home for spiders in dark storerooms.
Weak sandbag #5 – People wear the wrong types of masks and do not cover their noses. Some in rural areas still do not wear them at all.
Weak sandbag #6 – Many people have pandemic fatigue. They are weary of rules that make no sense to their reality and aren’t being consistently enforced.
The list could also include the fact that Namibia can’t afford quarantine facilities for all who need it. There aren’t enough ambulances for the infected.
Stage 1 Lockdown is required in some areas, like Windhoek, but we can’t afford it. The business and job losses nationwide are already catastrophic.
Immediate burials and cremations are said to be necessary, but many bereaved ordinary families can’t afford it.
The rich countries of the world will soon develop a vaccine to save themselves. Namibia might be able to hook its begging bowl to their star. Until then, we should be considering if it is time to implement a new strategy based on accepting the spread of the pandemic. As individuals, we must continue with hand sanitizers, social distancing, staying home and wearing masks; we have met the enemy and it has us by the throat.