WINDHOEK (Xinhua) — Namibia has taken swift actions to curb the spread of COVID-19 and learned to handle challenges amid the pandemic, Health and Social Services Minister Kalumbi Shalunga has told Xinhua.
After the country reported two index cases on March 13, the government quickly announced a state of emergency and a lockdown initially for the Erongo and Khomas regions, Shalunga said, adding the measures followed China’s practice.
“The reason being that these are the places with international airport points and Erongo is specific in that it is accessed by air, by road and by sea,” the minister said.
“On March 28, the president announced the closure of the border for international travelers, with the exceptions of returning Namibians and permanent residency holders,” he added.
Namibia on Monday recorded 152 new cases of COVID-19, taking its total to 3,101, with 715 recoveries and 19 deaths.
“We had quite numerous types of challenges, but we look at them as lessons we are learning,” said Shalunga.
The country didn’t have the capacity to test for COVID-19 at the beginning of its outbreak, though it established local testing capabilities within a short period of time, with over 31,000 tests conducted across the country so far, Shalunga said.
However, Namibia is now facing a lack of required health professionals, the minister said, adding that the government had to invite capable retirees to return to work and assist in the country’s coronavirus battle.
Along the way, Namibia established a national emergency operations center and an incident management system for COVID-19 response, the minister said. The country has also created operational pillars, including standardized procedures of how to handle specific issues and the recruitment of health workers, a surveillance team to collect data from laboratories, and case management and logistics teams.
“The most important work of the pillar has been to procure the necessary medical equipment like the ventilators, masks and other PPE … to ensure that they do not get contaminated during interaction with COVID-19 infected persons,” he said.
For the economy, it is a very difficult balancing act for Namibia to ensure that the disease is contained while people’s livelihoods are maintained at the same time, Shalunga said.
“There is no country in the world which has not felt the impact of COVID-19 on the economy,” he said.
“Now, when we sort of have the disease under control, we have to see how best we can open the economy in such a way that the livelihood of people is allowed to go on, and at the same time the spread of the disease is being contained,” he added.
“Internally we also have individuals and corporate entities coming forward giving donations and other forms of material items which are required,” he said, adding that development partners, the business community and the private sector are also on board.
The country has received solidarity during its response measures and efforts, especially from the government of China, the minister added.