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Covid-19 Upsurge Expected This Winter

 

By: Hertha Ekandjo

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula says as winter approaches, Namibia should expect an upsurge in the number of Covid-19 cases should a pathogen mutate and a new variant is detected.

Geingob, during the 42nd Covid-19 public briefing on the national response measures, stated that the rate of infection during the expiring observance period remains relatively under control, despite an increase in the average rate of the infections.

Geingob, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in parliament last week, said that he was worried about the Covid-19 vaccine uptake not being sufficient.

According to the health minister, Namibia should worry about the upcoming harsh winter season. Namibia’s deadly third wave came during the winter season of 2021.

“You must always understand the dynamics of the pandemic. There is the pathogen which is the virus and its characteristics in terms of transmission on one side. On the other side, we have the host, which is the person, the individual, the immune system of the individual, is it vaccinated, does it have natural immunity or not, if the person has protection in terms of vaccination, then that person is protected, and there’s nothing to worry about,” he explained.

He added that if the virus does not mutate and come up with a new virus, then the circulating virus is the one that is in abundance.

“Therefore, if the public health measures have been observed and the person has got protection, one has less worry. But if the pathogen mutates and you get a new virus, while you have people who are not vaccinated, not protected, then it is easy to transmit,” Shangula said.

Hence he said one could expect an upsurge in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Speaking on the sub-variant of omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which was recently detected in Botswana, Shangula said it is the same Omicron variant circulating in Namibia.

“This supplement has also been found in many other countries,” says Shangula.

According to Shangula, the ministry is investigating whether Namibia has such a variant in the country.

“In terms of epidemiology, it is not different from the omicron circulating in Namibia, and all the current Covid-19 measures should equally apply.”

Former health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku says that it doesn’t look like Covid-19 could be worsening with winter coming up.

Last winter, Namibia suffered tremendously in its third wave of novel coronavirus with Delta variant.

“My prediction is that Covid-19 will not be as worse as last year for two reasons, the virus has been around for some time now, and many people have been exposed to it. So there must be some immunity going on,” said Haufiku.

He also predicted that a significant number had been vaccinated, inducing immunity.

“When a virus has been around for a while, it sort of weakens, or people’s immune systems tend to develop a friendly relationship, which soothes the situation than last year.”

During the Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday, Geingob further stated that during the preceding week of 14-20 March 2022, the positivity ratio of 2.9 per cent marks a rise of 1.6 per cent in the rate of new infections from the previous baseline of 1.3 per cent positivity.

Geingob said although marginal, this upward trend is being monitored.

In his previous Covid-19 update, Geingob had abolished the compulsory wearing of masks in public spaces.

However, he stated that it is still advisable to protect oneself from exposure to the virus by applying sound personal judgment and necessary precautionary measures.

“As our first line of defence against Covid-19, let us continue to observe hand hygiene, the correct wearing of face masks, especially in public and crowded places, social and physical distances and personal vigilance and avoiding crowded indoor settings,” says Geingob.

While the diseases continue to evolve, Geingob said local data has proven that vaccinated people have been less ill when re-infected.

He said this because those vaccinated have built up some immunity.

“Local statistics on Covid-19 related hospitalisations and ICU admissions are of those not vaccinated,” he further added.

In this vein Geingob, he announced an extension of the current Covid-19 health measures.

“The current dispensation, which came into effect for a period of 30 days from 16 March 2022, will lapse on 16 April 2022 at midnight. All public health measures remain unchanged and are therefore extended for a period of 30 days until 15 May 2022,” he announced.

According to Shangula, the health ministry continues to take advantage of the low case numbers to build capacity for emergency case management.

“As an example, five care workers recently attended a training on basic emergency care and emergency management training to hospitals and other health facilities before the beginning of winter,” he said.

In terms of logistics, he said the current stock levels of different items and commodities are adequate at a national and regional level.

“The procurement and logistic pillar have assessed the supply mapping system, the capacity of logistics staff, and storage or warehousing space at the national and regional levels. They have also assessed transport capacity as part of the preparedness and response strategy.”

He thus said the ministry would use this low caseload period to maintain equipment and vehicles.

On Wednesday, Shangula said the ministry had engaged South African authorities regarding vaccination certificates.

Earlier this week, South Africa announced that it would request travellers to have vaccination certificates or negative PCR tests and not vaccination cards to enter the Southern African country.

“We have updated them on our situation and have requested them for an interim relief,” stated Shangula.

 

 

 

 

Hertha Ekandjo

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