NAMIBIANS will have to be vigilant now more than ever been to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and avoid the introduction of a second State of Emergency with all its associated restrictive measures.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Kalumbi Shangula, while addressing the nation from State House, said that the success achieved in the battle against the pandemic over the past six months was only possible because the Namibian people joined and worked together to face this common enemy in unity.
“Going forward that will be the common denominator of our future success. There is no substitute for unity. It is the only way we can overcome this threat. Whereas the State of Emergency will lapse tonight, Covid-19 remains with us. In this ‘new normal’, we must place the highest premium on unity because it has become truly indispensable,” he said.
He said that health authorities have been observing a consistent decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases.
“We are convinced that the measures we have taken since the first two index cases in Namibia have served us well,” he said.
The health Minister emphasised that the responsibility for Covid-19 control has shifted from government to individuals, families and communities.
“I put the greatest appreciation for the cooperation and support from the Namibian citizens on record. Let us move with the same spirit into the ‘New Normal’,” said Dr. Shangula.
Dr. Shangula said that going forward, the COVID-19 response will be implemented through new Directives or Regulations that will be issued by the health ministry, in terms of the provisions of the Public and Environmental Act, 2015 (Act No. 1 of 2015) and any other relevant legislation, or by other public office bearers responsible for the administration of other relevant legislation.
He said the new policies will include, among others, matters related to: Quarantine and Isolation protocols; The removal and burial of bodies of persons who succumb to Notifiable Infectious Diseases; Management of public gatherings; Contact tracing; Control of the movement of persons into affected areas; Testing of Persons; and the re-opening of Points of Entry and public transport by road or by air.
He said that under the ‘New Normal’, Namibians must learn to live with SARS-CoV2 in their daily lives, and that emphasis will henceforth be placed on information, public education and communication to foster behavioural change; intensification of compliance, especially voluntary compliance with public health measures such as the wearing of facemasks in public, social and physical distancing, hand washing, sanitizing and reduction in the size of public gatherings, as our first line of defense; and that government will continue to roll out expanded targeted testing.
“We will pursue the strategy of ‘source reduction’, which relies on enhanced contact tracing, quarantine and isolation of suspected and confirmed cases. We will augment patient management to ensure optimal care for both in- and outpatients,” he said.
Dr. Shangula said that the government will continue to invest in infrastructure development, specifically the expansion of isolation facilities, as well as the procurement of medical equipment and other supplies.
“This has already gone a long way by producing positive spin-offs towards the achievement of the overall objective of health systems strengthening,” he said.
Dr. Shangula said that the health ministry will also enhance psychosocial support to healthcare workers and affected families.
“While the strategic investments and interventions made so far have produced positive results, we must and we will continue to strengthen capacities by investing into the necessary tools and technologies and efficient procurement methods to augment our capability to manage, respond and treat those who need care,” Dr. Shangula said.
He indicated that the key to the public preventing a possible second wave of new infections is to contain the Basic Reproductive Ratio of the virus.
He added that preventing secondary infections arising from a single individual who had tested positive, to less than one is the best strategy.
“This key indicator means that, currently, in the majority of cases, one COVID-19 positive person is not transmitting the virus to more than one other person. Maintaining control of the rate of transmission is an indicator of success and it truly justifies the collective sacrifices endured to this point and which is required going forward,” he concluded.