ITALY became the first team to reach the knockout stage of Euro 2020 as midfielder Manuel Locatelli scored twice in a 3-0 win over Switzerland in Rome on Wednesday, while Wales moved to the brink of joining them by beating Turkey.
MORE THAN 130 people have died of Covid-19 in Namibia over the past two weeks.
It is difficult not to connect the dots of death to the poor oxygen supply being a contributing factor, especially at state health centres.
Health personnel have warned since last year of the need for better planning because of the seeming inevitability of a massive increase in the deadly respiratory virus.
That assumed inevitability is now a reality. While the primary responsibility lies with individuals to protect themselves (wear masks, sanitise, socially distance and vaccinate), it is ultimately the responsibility of the government to ensure that health facilities are adequately equipped and prepared.
On that score, the ministry of health has failed in a crucial area: Oxygen is essential for anaesthesia and for seriously ill patients. It is also vital in treating acute Covid-19 cases.
Covid-19 has now exposed the ministry's carelessness in ignoring warning bells over the years.
In 2010, a World Health Organisation (WHO) investigation found that the government's preferred oxygen supplier, Intaka Technology Namibia, did not meet the basic top standards in the world, bluntly declaring it as not safe.
Intakatech, which is owned by wheeler-dealer Knowledge Katti, was awarded the exclusive contract in 2007 under controversial circumstances. The contract has been renewed several times after it expired in 2016 despite criticism that best practices were not being followed.
This week, doctors and other health experts told The Namibian that Intakatech's machines that produce oxygen on-site from atmospheric air were not only producing inadequate oxygen quality – the purity level had allegedly fallen to below 75% – but that those machines were also crashing as the number of patients increased.
The oxygen purity standards required are put at 99%, which Intakatech seemingly struggled to meet long before the spectre of Covid-19 descended on us. And treating Covid-19 requires a saturation of oxygen.
To make matters worse, health executive director Ben Nangombe seems to confirm that they only recently (a month ago) ramped up efforts to rope in companies like Afrox and Air Liquide Namibia, which seem capable of supplying the bulk quantities required.
Why the ministry has protected the turf of only one supplier all these years can only be summed up as irresponsible.
This week, Nangombe told the Namibian Sun newspaper he believes it is unethical or illegal to publish names of entities and beneficial owners of companies given public contracts (tenders) related to Covid-19.
Just what is unethical about being more transparent with public resources?
Nangombe apparently has issues with the IMF demanding transparency in how the government uses public funds, especially in dealing with the pandemic, despite Namibia wanting a loan from the fund.
Nangombe's dismissive remarks about the IMF requirement fly in the face of president Hage Geingob's governance mantra that those in power need to be transparent and accountable in order to earn the public trust.
As a matter of fact, politicians and bureaucrats should not wait for the likes of the IMF in order to provide maximum information to the public, who have entrusted them with running the government.
We wonder what his take is on such a blatant disregard of transparency.
Officials in the ministry of health have, for too long, overused the excuse of emergency needs to bypass public scrutiny.
Why the ministry is allowed to continue taking shortcuts and gamble with people's lives is mind-boggling.
Surely the latest wave of Covid-19 cases and the resultant deaths should spur the government to be more transparent so that everybody can understand when and why exemptions are sought to avoid the cumbersome public bidding or so-called tender processes.
Nangombe's answers to the Sun newspaper are typical of the government's devil-may-care attitude that does not bode well for a well-functioning system, especially where lives are on the line.
Namibia needs accountable and responsible public officials who understand they are privileged to serve as custodians of public resources.