Opposition bemoans slow Covid-19 testing process

By Maria Kandjungu

POPULAR Democratic Movement (PDM) lawmaker Vipuakuje Muharukua has expressed his concern and disappointment with the slow testing of Covid-19 in the country saying due to the slow pace of testing, government would not know the full impact of the virus.

Muharukua made the comment this week in the National Assembly noting that while the country had planned a large-scale testing targeting about 200 000 people, so far only about 5 000 had been tested. This he said is disappointing, especially during a time when more people coming into the country were testing positive.

However, late last month Health minister Kalumbi Shangula announced that they will no longer be testing based on the 200 000-target testing figure. He at the time noted that Namibia will now aim to test less than one percent of the country’s population. According to Shangula, the 200 000 figure was based on the projected testing capacity of the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) but the country needs to test fewer people to achieve an objective, which is to assess the degree of community transmissions.

Muharukua is however of the opinion that recent events of people sneaking out of quarantine facilities or abandoning tracks into the communities were signs that there could be possible transmissions and that government needs to fast-track the testing process.

“We know, based on the chronology of events, that there are people who came in the country before these strict requirements who were told to self-quarantine at home… they did not do it. These people went into the community, so we do not know the full impact of the virus and how the import is in terms of the virus,” the opposition MP stated.

He added that, “A lot of people quarantined are increasingly coming out positive. Some of these people went into the community. So, we implore that government speeds up testing because at the moment it is slow and with it being slow, we don’t know how fast the infection rate is out there.”

As of Monday morning Namibia had 31 confirmed cases of Covid-19 of which 15 are active cases while 16 have recovered from the virus. The country has zero Covid-19 related deaths. Update by officials at the Ministry of Health also showed that a total number of 4 974 people were tested and 737 were being kept in quarantine facilities countrywide.   

Also speaking in the National Assembly this week, Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, blamed the slow process of testing to a shortage of supplies for Covid-19 testing materials worldwide.

According to her, testing materials are in high demand worldwide and as a result, they are not readily available for purchase.

“The problem at hand is that the materials are not readily available. It is not that we do not want to test but it’s the material that is not there. We want to test one third of the population but there is a world demand for testing material.

“So we are aware that we have no arrested the situation and that is why we have put measures in place … that is why we put Walvis Bay on a lockdown because we want to protect our people,” Nandi-Ndaitwah defended.