President Hage Geingob yesterday reiterated the need to increase Covid-19 vaccination coverage to achieve herd immunity as that will instil confidence in the economy, specifically the tourism and hospitality sectors, which have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
“Our country has been devastated by the impacts of Covid-19 on our health, social and economic wellbeing. The government has maintained its priority to safeguard Namibian lives and livelihoods. Therefore, please obey the rules,” implored Geingob during a Covid-19 briefing at State House. He further announced that Covid-19 health regulations, which lapse on 16 April 2022, would remain unchanged until 15 May 2022.
Geingob said there remains a lot of work ahead before Covid-19 can be completely dealt with, further emphasising that vaccinations are a way of controlling the pandemic, which ultimately limits severe illness and hospitalisation.
He added that though not out of the woods yet, the rate of infection during the expiring observance period remains relatively under control, despite an increase in the average rate of infections.
“During the preceding week of 14-20 March 2022, the positivity ratio of 2.9% marks a rise of 1.6% in the rate of new infections, from the previous baseline of 1.3% positivity. Although marginal, this upward trend is being monitored,” he said.
Though the public regulation for the compulsory wearing of facemasks in public spaces has been abolished, Geingob said it is still advisable to prevent exposure to the virus by applying sound personal judgement and taking the necessary precautionary measures. According to the current regulations, public gatherings should not exceed 1 000 people.
“We are fortunate to have contained the recent surge in cases at our local schools, a success that is attributable to effective surveillance, prompt responses and active testing. Had this cluster outbreak occurred within the broader community, it could have gained momentum and caused far-reaching reversals on public health and the public health system,” the head of state reflected.
Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula said the global target is to vaccinate 70% of countries’ populations to make an impact on the pandemic. Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign on 19 March 2021, Namibia has fully vaccinated 399 304 people, which constitutes only 22.4%.
“In terms of vaccine stock, I assure the nation that Namibia has enough stock of vaccines. As of 5 April 2022, the stock level at the Central Medical Stores was 746 290 doses of Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, J&J and Pfizer combined,” he added.
Omicron BA.4 and BA.5
Meanwhile, Shangula also gave an update on the recent Covid-19 variant discovered in neighbouring Botswana.
On 11 April 2022, Botswana announced the presence of a new sub-lineage of the Omicron variant in four individuals, which has been designated as Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.
Shangula said this sub-lineage of Omicron has been detected previously in South Africa, Denmark, Scotland and England from 10 January 2022.
“This variant is still being studied in terms of disease spread and virulence. The Laboratory Pillar of the Covid-19 response in Namibia is working closely with Unam for genomic surveillance and the testing of samples from school clusters. So far, 37 samples have been submitted to Unam for genomic sequencing,” he added.
Shangula said when it gets cold, people tend to be closer together and in closed settings. Under such conditions, the transmission of Covid-19 is enhanced. “In preparation for the winter period, let us get vaccinated and continue to observe public health and social measures,” he noted.