The rise in the number of healthcare workers who have become infected with COVID-19 is alarming. These dedicated and brave workers are risking their lives to help people who are in need of assistance. Their safety while on the frontline in the war against the pandemic must be topic #1 in all government decision-making meetings. Budgets to finance their needs must be fully funded. Their safety and care must be prioritized.

We, as a nation and a grateful community, are not doing enough to protect healthcare workers. We are not showing that we value them and need them. Healthcare workers must receive all protective equipment at the highest standard. Give them extra battle/danger pay. They must have full access to VIP health treatment in facilities should they fall ill.

The nation must not be in denial about the irreplaceable need for healthcare workers during a pandemic. Those who have worked or are working with Namibia’s 3,229 cumulative confirmed cases; 7,343 cumulative number of people in quarantine and those handling the burials of the 19 who have died, are at risk.

This country acts as if healthcare workers on all levels who are putting themselves into harm’s way are nothing special. We reject this. They are extremely special. Without them those suffering from the illness would be lying in beds alone and miserable. These patients would be dirty, unfed, un-medicated, and un-transported to hospitals without healthcare providers. At hospitals and clinics without healthcare workers no one would be there to help those in need.

Without front line healthcare workers, no one would be tested. The person next to you in the taxi, in a line at the bank, at the desk next to yours in the office, or even standing at a traffic robot with you, may have the infection and be unaware. Testing can sort things out and get care for those in need. But, without frontline workers willing to test thousands of strangers, COVID will defeat Namibia.

We must institute danger pay or wartime battle pay for healthcare workers with immediate effect. Healthcare workers do not go to an isolated office to push paper, have Zoom meetings, sell commodities or do various forms of banking, finance or business analysis. They can not work remotely at home. They are putting their healing hands on strangers. They could contract the disease by helping others (and bring it home to their families); they know it, but do this vital work anyway.

Government must provide a danger pay scale for healthcare workers. It must be paid out on all levels (orderlies, food servers, room cleaners, ambulance crews, and waste disposal staff). COVID-19 related funds have been donated by development partners. Let us earmark a portion of that for healthcare workers’ support.

Government healthcare workers with PSEMAS ‘regular’ should be elevated to PSEMAS ‘higher’. The government must pay the difference in the premium rates. Complimed must be engaged to provide supplemental policies specifically for healthcare workers. Government must subsidize this. The same care for soldiers wounded in battle should be extended to healthcare workers who contract the disease they are fighting.

State House should undertake presidential visits to healthcare representatives to offer words of encouragement and thanks. The workers should be asked to collectively produce a list of what they (at all levels) need to feel safe and to do their jobs better. Their list must become a government to do list.

They need counselling support to vent their fears and worries. Let us not forget the trauma and stress involved in taking such a high risk every single day with no end in sight.

Churches should include prayers for healthcare workers in masses and services. Those who can do something positive and special for a healthcare worker in their neighbourhood must do so. Providing healthcare services during a contagious national pandemic must be seen as a particular act of valour.

We must value those who take care of people in need.