Windhoek – The first official COVID-19 case recorded in the SADC region was in South Africa on March 5, 2020.
Since then, the Southern Africa region has conducted nearly 14 million tests on citizens, returning about 1.9 million positive results. There have been more than 1.77 million recoveries and just over 59,000 deaths. (Statistics correct as at March 24, 2021. Source: Africa Centres for Disease Control).
SADC as a region is the epicentre of the pandemic in Africa, and two waves of infections have taken their toll, with warning that a third – which is currently gripping Europe and the Americas – could be on its way to Southern Africa.
But authorities are optimistic that the third wave, like the first two, will also be weathered. And that confidence is in no small part due to the increasing rollout of vaccination programmes.
Apart from the vaccines that have been coming in from China, India and Russia, SADC countries are also going to benefit from jabs sourced by the African Union and the COVAX facilities, which should add impetus to national immunisation drives.
However, governments have to contend with apathy and scepticism towards the vaccines, and to that end, leading politicians have been stepping to the front of the queue to get jabs as a public demonstration that the drugs are not only safe, but also necessary.
Zimbabwean Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as Health Minister, has already received the regulatory two doses of the Sinopharm jab; while South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Namibian Deputy Health Minister Ester Muinjangue have also led by example. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa also got vaccinated this week,
Namibian Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Kalumbi Shangula, in sync with his boss President Hage Geingob, have been drumming up support for vaccination.
At the recent launch of the national immunisation campaign, Dr Shangula said, “We are hopeful that the measures we have taken, including acquiring vaccines, will bring hope to many Namibians whose lives were disrupted by this pandemic.”
Health Ministry Executive Director Ben Nangombe said Namibia had been commended by the World Health Organisation for its COVID-19 response plan.
“I am proud to say our vaccination programme is by far the best compared to other countries and WHO is more than impressed. As we go forward, we now put our hopes in as many Namibians taking up the vaccine as we make baby steps towards normalising our country again,” he said.
University of Namibia-based political scientist Ndumbah Kamwanyah said the country could look to the future with confidence.
“It has to been an easy but the future is certainly likely better. The government handled the situation exceptionally well from when the very first case was recorded to now when the country has received vaccines.”