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Ministers die as Namibia faces world’s highest Covid-19 infection rate

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  • Mortuaries and hospitals are overwhelmed as delta variant sweeps through southern Africa
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Nine senior officials have died from Covid-19 in Namibia over the last 10 days as the southern African country faces one of the world’s highest infection rates, driven by the arrival of the delta variant.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula said on Monday that the variant was detected in “17 out of 28 samples” as the virus mutation which first emerged in India rips through parts of Eastern and Southern Africa. “This is the first report on the detection of the delta variant in Namibia,” the ministry said.

Two senior politicians from Namibia’s ruling party, SWAPO, succumbed to the virus over the weekend, adding to a long list of high-profile fatalities including generals, professors and ministers. Zedekia Ngavirue, Namibia’s chief negotiator with Germany over reparations for the genocide against the Herero and Nama people in the early 19th century, passed away in June.

Namibia recorded 4,795 coronavirus cases per million people last week, the highest rate in the world over that period. Registering more than 1,000 new cases each day, Namibia’s third wave is far more devastating than its second in December where daily cases were less than 500. The influx of cases has quickly overwhelmed hospitals and mortuaries in the capital city of Windhoek.

Compared to neighbouring South Africa, the worst affected African country since the beginning of the pandemic, Namibia initially had low levels of transmission and less than 1,000 deaths. However, the government has been criticised for allowing tourists to return to the popular holiday destination too quickly.

Six elderly tourists visiting Namibia on a tour bus from South Africa died in June after 37 out of the 40 travellers tested positive for Covid-19. According to local reports, the owner of the tour company, who was travelling on the bus, had to be lifted to South Africa from Namibia where he later died of the disease.

The sudden spike in cases is similar to a delta-fuelled third wave that is threatening to overwhelm fragile health systems in nearby southern African countries including South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, warned on Tuesday that Africa is facing a “perfect storm” as cases surge by almost 2,000 per cent in some parts of the continent.

President Hage Geingob, who contracted Covid-19 in May, introduced a raft of stricter coronavirus measures last month to stop the spread of the deadly virus. This included a two-week lockdown, restricted entry into Windhoek, the suspension of schools and colleges and a 10-person limit on gatherings.

One of the major concerns in Namibia and throughout the rest of Africa is the poor vaccine rollout. To date, the country of 2.5 million people has only administered around 150,000 vaccine doses. – Telegraph, UK

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