The president’s recently announced steps to further re-open Namibia as a country, society and economy are welcome. The year 2020 has been an unprecedented financial disaster for Namibia as a whole. We all have taken a major hit. Governments had to respond in the way that science and their best guesses dictated; they are doing their best. The danger with reported deaths and recorded new infections decreasing is that people think COVID is ‘over.’ People think that life can go back to the way it was before the outbreak.
We must never lie to ourselves. Whatever was happening ‘before’ is gone forever. There will be no recreating it. The new normal means finding a new life that includes a way of managing the presence of infectious diseases. Until a SAFE, well-tested, effective vaccine is ready, this is life now – we must get used to it.
Let us never, ever listen to Donald Trump’s reckless, irresponsible declarations about vaccines being ready before the US election or the Russian blustering that they found the cure first. We must watch the companies looking for guinea pigs to test out their vaccines (they infect you with COVID and then see if their concoction works). There were two French scientists back in March that said Africa is where vaccine testing should happen. This IS the racist thinking in some quarters.
We must follow the science (not lawyers, politicians, desperate business people, bankers or social media). What is best for Namibia must come first. We must listen to, but not automatically follow the CDC and UN WHO foreign representatives. These outside advisors skew Namibia’s COVID response to match their urban, European, developed-country standards.
COVID has not gone anywhere. If someone infected gets loose in public, they will spread the disease. Some infected will have no symptoms; most seem to have mild symptoms, but there are those who are sick already with other things that may have worse symptoms. Our elderly who may get this disease will be in terrible danger.
The tourism industry needs visitors. This must happen, but we must go into it with our eyes wide open. There will be a very small number of tourists and returning Namibians who will bring the disease in just as they before. These tests they are expected to present are not the Holy Grail. Our officials may not know a valid Australian test from a valid Canadian test from a valid Swiss test from a ginned-up thing done online. Still, we must do all that can be done to allow people in, but take practicable preventative steps.
We must take the risk of opening up fully, know it is a risk (let’s not pretend) and do the best we can. Nothing more can be asked or done.
We cannot stop wearing annoying masks. We all long for the time when we don’t have to wear them anymore. That time is not yet here.
We all dislike the signing-in nonsense when we enter stores. This kind of record-keeping is a joke when it comes to tracing someone who was infected. Namibia has never had the skills set nor the capacity to input or sort mega data and use it in a reasonable time to make a difference.
Social spacing as a concept will take a few years to trickle down into the cultures and traditions fixed in people’s minds and behaviours. By then, hopefully, a vaccine will be available for the lucky few who will receive the limited doses that will be available.
Washing hands with soap as outlined by the experts has always been inconsistent in Namibia when people do not have running water access. Though, most people now know to spray their hands when they enter a business.
The impression that COVID is ‘gone’ is wrong. The number of new cases reported is down because the number of tests being given is down. Far fewer tests given mean far fewer reports of infection. It does not automatically mean there are no new cases in Namibia. All involved must choose their descriptive language accurately.
We feel confident that Namibia probably has a very low infection rate. That is good for those needing to travel out of the country, for businesses and for politics (elections are in a month). Even with that disease-management thumbs-up, we must keep in the back of our minds that we are no longer testing at the rate we used to back in June-August.
We must not give the impression that COVID is a done deal, not yet. Let us stay alert, but not overly zealous. Let us stay aware, but not over-the-top. Let’s hope the vaccine comes sometime in 2021 when Namibia has money to pay for enough doses for all of us.