Walvis Bay — Frontline workers and ordinary residents from Walvis Bay, which became the flashpoint of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, have warned Windhoek inhabitants not to take the virus lightly.

Nine people died of the virus at Walvis Bay, while more than 1 700 tested positive. More than 60% of those who tested positive at Walvis Bay could not be accommodated in isolation wards, as the town only had a capacity of 600 beds.

A community worker Charles Neidel, who has been at the frontline of the Covid-19 battle at Walvis Bay, said Namibians should not underestimate the pandemic at all.

“I can tell you from my experience that it was terrible and comparing it to ordinary flu is like lying to yourself. Covid-19 should not be taken lightly,” said Neidel, who also recovered from the deadly flu.

Neidel said although he was not hospitalised, he had to take at least two cycles of strong antibiotics, as the virus confined him to his bed with a very high fever and excruciating body aches.

He said he doesn’t know how and when he contracted Covid-19, but immediately took precautionary measures when he could not rule it. He eventually tested positive on 22 July.

Ironically, he tested positive just days after his friend and fellow frontline worker Chandler Plato succumbed to the virus.

“My two children immediately went to stay with their grandparents, and my wife moved out of our bedroom. I made sure that I only use one set of eating utensils while my wife strictly followed all guidelines of Covid-19, including wearing a mask at home,” he explained.

Neidel said the safety of his family was his main priority when he tested positive, which is why his wife tested negative, despite having taken care of him.

“Namibians should make sure they wear a mask, sanitise and keep on social distancing. Most importantly, avoid crowded places and socialise at home with your family, rather than inviting friends and relatives who do not stay with you. That is the only way we can avoid contracting Covid-19,” he added.

Saima Metusalem, who also tested positive early June, said it took at least four weeks for her to recover from Covid-19.

“However, I’m still experiencing breathing problems, which I never had; I was recently prescribed an asthma inhaler by my doctor. Although I don’t have Covid anymore, it feels as if my body did not fully recover,” she said.

Metusalem works as a cashier in Walvis Bay but she commuted every day from Swakopmund before she contracted Covid-19. “I did everything right – never left my house without a sanitiser and my mask, but up to today, I don’t know how I got Covid-19. What I can tell you is that the symptoms feel like hell. I have never experienced flu that can make my whole body be in pain. My hope is that everyone will take care of themselves and avoid getting or spreading it. I certainly don’t wish it on anyone,” added Metusalem, who was placed in an isolation facility.

Private sector support

Meanwhile, Nankole Muyoba, acting CEO of Namdock, who has been instrumental in assisting the government in the fight against Covid-19, also says it is important the private sector is on board to assist public healthcare.

The company assisted the health ministry to create more isolation facilities in Walvis Bay. This includes the conversion of the old tuberculosis ward to a 24-bed facility, as well as garages to a 13-bed facility.

In addition, Namdock also repaired existing 24 oxygen points at the Swakopmund state hospital and added 12 oxygen points, as well as converted a storeroom into toilets as preparation for Covid-19.

“We also repaired hospital beds for the Walvis Bay hospital and cast plinths for bulk oxygen tanks at Walvis Bay state hospital and Swakopmund state hospital for patients who will be needing oxygen,” she explained.