PRESIDENT Hage Geingob has a point when he says it is unacceptable that Namibia finds itself on the verge of possibly having to throw away an estimated 150 000 Covid-19 vaccines.
Our vaccination rate is sluggish.
By yesterday, only 326 000 Namibians – or 12,8% – were fully vaccinated.
“We cannot afford to have a situation where more vaccines, which have been acquired at great cost and effort, are left to languish until they reach expiry date. It is simply unacceptable,” Geingob told a press conference this week when he pleaded with Namibians to get vaccinated.
The president has good reason to be worried – especially in December when many people look forward to spending time with loved ones and friends.
Omicron, the latest Covid-19 variant, is spreading like wildfire worldwide. Namibia too has experienced a sharp uptick after a period of relative Covid 'stability'.
The latest variant has mercurial tendencies. It spreads faster, appears to have a shorter incubation period, and needs less air time than Michael Jordan to score a slam dunk.
So far, Omicron is believed to be milder than Delta, which drove the brutal third wave. However, while Omicron is, so far, not proving as deadly as previous variants, it's taking an economic toll on businesses, Namibia's tourism sector, and the hospitality industry, among others.
This has a knock-on effect on the social and economic health of the nation.
The sooner more Namibians get vaccinated, the safer all of us will be.
The government has been rightly criticised for missteps during the earlier waves of Covid-19.
However, it's time that we as Namibians also step up to the plate if we want to get on the front foot in the battle against the virus.
It's worrying to hear on a daily basis of people not wearing masks in taxis, and of social distancing protocols and masks being ignored at shops, workplaces, and gatherings.
There are a number of reasons for the slow vaccination rate. These include insufficient information, a lack of understanding of the nature of Covid, a threat we cannot see, how it spreads, and trust in the process.
This is compounded by a militant few among Covid denialists and anti-vaxxers who do their damnedest to undermine the norms of human behaviour and protocols designed to protect the majority, the immune-compromised, and the vulnerable.
These zealots think nothing of spreading fake news, or maliciously distorting information.
There is still time for the government to take control of the narrative, and for Namibians to take control of their fate, individually and collectively.
It is not too late to initiate a blanket information drive. It needs to be inclusive, from village level to the heart of the central government.
Village councils, local councils, and regional councils need to be involved. As do political parties, churches, community organisations and activists. Shops and businesses, taxi drivers too, should insist on Covid-19 health protocols being observed.
The president this week warned: “This festive season will be pivotal in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic – and we must therefore change our conduct. The virus cannot spread in the absence of specific human actions. Therefore, the actions we take and our behavioural patterns will either derail or aid our efforts to defeat Covid-19. In light of this, I urge all Namibians to avoid unnecessary travel, movement, and risky behaviour during the next several weeks.”
We can't have our cake and eat it. A lack of progress may force the government to take tougher actions, such as requiring vaccine passports, or showing PCR test results at potential Covid-spreader hotspots, such as clubs.
All indications are that we're going to have to learn to live with Covid variants for years to come.
Nonetheless, we cannot allow it to hold us hostage.
When push comes to shove, combating the Covid-19 onslaught depends on the behaviour of each and every one of us. We are all each other's keepers.