Pandemic threat causes blood donation drop

By Paulina Ndalikokule

THE Ministry of Health and Social Services have permitted the blood donation process to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown following a 50 percent drop in blood collections by the Namibia Blood Transmission Services (NamBTS).

Executive director in the Health Ministry Ben Nangombe said the closing of schools, universities and other training institutions forced NamBTS to cancel blood drives, which severely affected the process.

“The biggest challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic is to maintain sufficient stocks of blood for patients in need.

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This led to a drop in blood collections by 50 percent and as a result NamBTS has started to ration and reduce blood units supplied to blood banks and hospitals across the country,” Nangombe said.

He informed the public that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted to donors and the general public through the blood transfusion process as respiratory viruses are generally not known to be transmitted by blood donation or transfusion.

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Nangombe also assured prospective donors that it is safe to donate blood, and that NamBTS has implemented all necessary safety measures to ensure that donor clinics are safe enough to protect blood donors from contracting coronavirus.

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NamBTS donor recruitment and public relations manager Zita Tobin said blood donation remain essential during the pandemic as medical emergencies continue to work flat out to contain the crisis.

She urged blood donors to travel to blood donation clinics and to their centres in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay during the lockdown for donations. “We appeal to all healthy donors to keep donating during this difficult time, as blood donation is considered an essential service,” she said.

She said the blood is needed especially by patients in hospital, such as women who will give birth, cancer patients who need to recover from treatment and hemophiliac patients who will need blood products to survive. “We need our community to stand stronger than ever before,” she said.

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Tobin gave assurances that NamBTS has taken all possible measures to step up hygiene protocols at their clinics. “Our personnel sanitise their hands regularly with soap and water, in addition to using hand sanitizer before and after each encounter with a donor.

Hand sanitizer is freely available for blood donors and staff to use at blood donation clinics.”

She added that citizens have been instructed to avoid close contact with people who are sick, and to stay at home when they are sick. She further said the cleaning and disinfection procedures for frequently used objects and surfaces have been enhanced, while blood donation stations and beds are kept at reasonable distances to ensure social distancing as far as possible.

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Tobin also discouraged people to avoid going to donate blood to obtain free coronavirus testing because the testing is done by swab tests and not blood samples. To donate blood one must be older than 16 years and younger than 65, weigh more than 50kg and must have a safe sexual life and healthy lifestyle.

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Donors are also advised to eat a meal before donating blood.

The centres in Windhoek are open in Tal Street Centre from Monday to Friday (07h00-16h00), and on Tuesdays and Thursdays offer extended donation times from 07h00-18h00.