Windhoek – Southern African Heads of State and Government have taken the difficult yet necessary decision to impose varying levels lockdowns to contain sky rocketing COVID-19 cases and deaths.
A shortage of vaccines at a time the stubborn Delta variant of the coronavirus is creeping into the region are among the motivations behind the lockdowns, with restrictions being re-imposed on movements, commercial activities and liquor sales in several countries.
President Hage Geingob has locked down the whole country as the third wave has seen Namibia recording the third highest new infections in Africa.
Gatherings have been limited to 10 people, a 10pm-4am curfew has been effected, travel between regions in the country has been banned (with special arrangements for tourists to be outlined), contact sports have been put on hold, and the sale of liquor has been restricted to a take-away basis and not at all on weekends.
“While the country recorded a 50 percent recovery rate over the last 15 days, the fatality rate has also risen sharply and the country has recorded the regrettable loss of 513 Namibian lives in a period of just 15 days, due to COVID-19 or related illness…
“Efforts to augment capacities and to respond to the needs of public health facilities in adversely affected regions are being intensified with the supply of essential consumables as well as human resources,” President Geingob said.
He said while a lockdown would have an adverse economic impact, the decision to enforce one had been taken protect lives.
“Having recovered from COVID-19 myself, I have seen the need to take difficult decisions to protect ourselves. I also urge all Namibians to get vaccinated,” he said.
Namibia is recording an average of 1,798 daily cases and a positivity rate of 41 percent on tests.
First Lady Monica Geingos got her first Sinopharm jab a few weeks after recovering from COVID-19 infection, and made a clarion call for her fellow Namibians to get vaccinated.
“Some people would ask the question why we are also working on fighting the misinformation about the pandemic but reality is that people are dying as we speak and the pandemic affects everyone and we must all play a part where we can,” she said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa took the unpopular decision of suspending liquor sales for two weeks as infections soared. This was in addition to restrictions on movements.
“We have all had to endure great hardship over the past year-and-a-half. We may have thought that with life slowly returning to normal, we could take a more casual approach to the public health regulations. Perhaps we are fed up with wearing a mask on public transport and decide to keep it off one day. When we see nobody objects or complains, we stop wearing it. We go to social gatherings with a mask on, but take it off once we are inside,” President Ramaphosa lamented.
He went on: “In several provinces, our public health facilities are stretched to their limits, and private facilities are also buckling under the strain. Even as our hospitals have made extraordinary efforts to accommodate patients, ICU beds are in short supply.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced new restrictions on business operating hours and curtailed unnecessary movement within the country.
“The country is experiencing a surge in cases. The last seven days has seen 596 new cases and 26 deaths, as compared to the same period in May last year where we had 132 cases and six deaths,” he said.
S. Africans troop to Zim for vaccine
Harare – Demand for COVID-19 vaccination has seen South Africans seeking jabs in Zimbabwe.
Both countries are in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic, and though South Africa’s economy dwarfs Zimbabwe’s, the latter has been running a vaccination programme that has been globally acclaimed for its reach and efficiency.
Zimbabwe has been administering vaccines from China, India and Russia; and President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said non-Zimbabweans can get vaccinated for a token fee. Vaccination is free for citizens and residents.
South Africa has vaccinated 2,7 million, while in Zimbabwe, 764,248 people had received the first dose and 534,906 had received the second as at June 28. However, vaccine access per capita is higher in Zimbabwe than in South Africa.
A report by Ignite Media says, “A South African travel agent is reportedly making a killing by bringing South Africans to Zimbabwe for COVID-19 vaccination in a scheme that involves some government officials and a local private hospital.
“The Boyz Travel Merchants is charging R8,423 (about US$590) per individual for their clients to travel to Harare to get the jabs from a private hospital, HealthPoint, in Belgravia. Boyz Travel Merchants representative Jan Engelbrecht Klitzke said they had been running the scheme until last Saturday when they received a notice from HealthPoint that they were taking a break of up to two weeks due to a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines in Zimbabwe.
“Klitzke said their programme mainly targeted tourists who wanted to be inoculated. A COVID-19 jab at HealthPoint costs US$100 per shot, according to Boyz Travel. An administrator at HealthPoint confirmed that they had been administering the vaccine to foreigners.”
Zimbabwe has since that time taken delivery of another 500,000 doses of vaccines, with another two million expected this week.
The country is on course to availing 10 million vaccines, which are sufficient for attainment of herd immunity by year-end.
Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube last Saturday said, “We have received 500,000 today, by end of next week we will receive another two million, two weeks after that we want to bring another 1,5 million. We want to carry on so that by end of August we bring in another 3,5 million vaccines again from China.
“We are very organised, we are very focused and we are very diligent in terms of implementing our vaccination programme because saving lives is very important. But it’s not just about saving lives, it’s about economic recovery because when people are vaccinated its easier for companies to operate, it’s easier to do business and carrying on with business is what will revive the economy.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Care Deputy Minister, Dr John Mangwiro, says vaccination certificates will soon become a requirement for people to operate businesses or go to work.
“We are going to say if you really want to be selling at your market place or to be where you are, you need to be vaccinated. We definitely need to see that you have your certificate,” he said. “We do not want any Zimbabweans to be a risk to another Zimbabwean, we need to protect each other. Every Zimbabwean has a right to life and we don’t want you to be part of the risk so we encourage everyone to be vaccinated.
“Also, we are not going to target these areas only, we are also going to make sure that prisoners are vaccinated. Those who work in the prison areas are also going to be vaccinated. Any area of concentration of people we will definitely make sure that people are vaccinated.”
Several countries have already gone this route.
On June 28, authorities in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates government said from August 20, 2021, only vaccinated people would be allowed to enter public spaces as 93 percent of the target population has been inoculated.
“The decision covers shopping centres, restaurants, cafes, gyms, recreational facilities, sporting activities and all other retail outlets not within shopping centres, except those selling essential goods such as supermarkets and pharmacies.