Govt caught with its pants down

Jo-Maré Duddy – Government must open-up the import of Covid-19 vaccines to the private sector to fight the third wave, prevent a fourth and help achieve Namibia to achieve herd immunity as soon as possible, futures studies expert Eben De Klerk says.

Data released by the ministry of health and social services on Monday showed Namibia had a cumulative 117 293 confirmed Covid-19 cases, of which 20 903 were active. Total Covid-19 related and Covid-19 deaths 2 871 have been recorded.

Since the start of vaccination in March this year, 45 348 people have received both doses of Sinopharm or AstraZeneca.

That leaves 705 172 people who have to be vaccinated to reach the target of 750 720 by the end of September this year as announced by health minister Kalumbi Shangula on 18 July. Excluding Sundays, that means an average of 12 371 people will have to be jabbed daily. To reach herd immunity of at least 60%, 1 501 042 people will have to be fully vaccinated by January next year.

De Klerk, the vice chairperson of the Namibian Association of Risk Management, said government and private sector must also do more to combat the wave of Covid misinformation on social media – not through censorship, but through actively engaging on such platforms with reliable information made available to all.

De Klerk was one of the analysts contacted by Market Watch to comment on government’s handling of the pandemic.

LOCK-DOWN TOO EARLY

Two of the experts believe government locked down the economy too soon last year.

Simonis Storm economist Theo Klein says government has typically followed international standards of social restrictions and restructuring Namibians’ way of life.

“However, when looking at the number of infections since March 2020, one cannot help but think that the national lockdown was initiated prematurely,” Klein maintains.

“The lockdown was supposed to be used to get ourselves pandemic ready – securing the necessary finances, negotiating for personal protective equipment (PPEs), vaccines, getting medical care facilities in order, etc.,” he says.

Commenting on the current third wave, Klein comments that government did not plan well in advance and make necessary preparations for the winter season.

“It was expected that infection rates would spike during the cold season, given the little we know about the virus. Government should have erected temporary healthcare facilities in advance in anticipation of new variants entering Namibia, as well as the delayed delivery of Covid-19 vaccinations,” he says.

‘NO NEED’

Dr Omu Kakujaha-Matundu, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Namibia (Unam), agrees.

“Government closed too soon when there was no need (2019 hard lockdown). During the third wave they ran out of options and ammunition and shied away to close down before the pandemic ran amok. Then the [current] lockdown was not backed up by any plan like we close down and vaccinate as fast as we can.

“Government could have done much better,” Kakujaha-Matundu stresses.

According to him, Namibia could face a fourth wave “very soon due to a slow vaccination roll-out”.

He adds, however: “But to be fair, this is a new disease and poor countries find it difficult to cope in terms of vaccination, business and social support.”

De Klerk says government “certainly could have improved in some areas, especially investment, planning and healthcare facility expansion before the third wave hit us – instead of continuing to invest in vanity projects”.

He too, however, adds: “But we are not worse off than most developed countries when they reached their respective infection peaks.”

MONEY

Klein points out that government has secured loans under Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank (AfDB) which should provide just over N$5 billion, expected to be received in tranches over the next five years.

“We are unaware of how government will spend these funds. A detailed expenditure plan will be provided by the mid-term budget review in October 2021. However, we do expect health and a potential wage protection programme to be the main themes in the mid-term budget review, he says. – jo-mare@republikein.com.na