Coronavirus more lethal to men

By Maria Kandjungu

A S Covid-19 cases mount in Namibia, data shows the virus is becoming prevalent in men and killing more of them compared to women, a situation which according to health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula, is puzzling.

Covid-19 reports by the health ministry show that the surge in cases particularly in Windhoek has seen males suffer drastically making up 68 percent of the country’s death toll which as of early this week stood at 37.

Data collected by the Ministry of Health also shows that of the 37 Covid-related fatalities recorded by Monday afternoon, 25 were men and 12 were women.

Daily Covid-19 update by the health ministry further shows more males testing positive as compared to females as over the past three weeks (July 26 – August 18) the country  had 2 777 new infections, of which over 60 percent were male.

“There is no scientific or medical reason we are able to provide now. We are also just puzzled about it because at the beginning more females were testing positive than males,” Shangula said adding that at the time, his ministry thought that this was because women were more involved in everyday trade compared to men.

“You see more women selling along the streets and we thought those may be some of the contributing factors and also obviously because they make up a larger number of the population but that shifted and men took over. We are now seeing a wide gap, and the infection rate seems to be higher among males and there is nothing we can say now on why that is the case,” the minister said.

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The data may be disturbing but should not come entirely as a surprise, as while there seems to be no scientifically proven reason why more men are getting infected by the virus as compared to females.

Reports China, Italy and Ameriva where men were infected with Covid-19 and succumbed to it at higher rates than women.

Former health minister and physician, Dr Richard Kamwi said there is a need for local research to be done to determine why men are seemingly at higher risk of the pandemic.

“As a researcher, I believe in well documented and statistically proven facts, so I think we need to do our homework in this regard and find what maybe the underlying factors and not just depend on speculation,” Kamwi said adding that while it is challenging to give a blanket reason as to why males are at a higher risk, their lifestyle and socialisation may be a contributing factor.

“Those that are known to wonder aimlessly are male, so frankly speaking men are most vulnerable to Covid-19 because of their lifestyle or the way they live. If you walk into a bar, you typically find more men. With the new generation there may be competition, but I would associate it to their lifestyles,” Kamwi concluded.

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Hilary Njenge, an epidemiologist representing the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Namibia said it is too early to conclude why males seem to be at risk.

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“There are a lot of factors at play and I must say cases in Namibia are still few for us to conclude … the virus has only just started here so the infection rate can change.”

Njenge said a number of factors could however be attributed to the huge shift and research needs to be properly conducted.

“There is a need for more research to look at factors of socialisation in terms of who is still going to crowded places.

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Also look at which sectors and regions are most affected in relation to the genders. Underlying health issues that lead to fatality also need to be looked at in terms of which gender mostly has such conditions and also pay attention to how the situation is in other countries so we can draw a well-informed conclusion”.