First positive Covid-19 case for Walvis Bay
25 May 2020 | Health
Ben Nangombe; Ministry of health; “It’s concerning that the public does not realise the seriousness of Covid-19.”
The minister of health and social services Dr Kalumbi Shangula announced Namibia’s 21st case of the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) on Sunday. The case involves a 47-year old truck driver from Walvis Bay who had travelled to South Africa.
The minister said that the truck driver had returned from South Africa on 8 May and was quarantined at the Wesbank truck depot along with a colleague who had returned from Zambia on 10 May.
The two were subsequently dismissed by FP du Toit, their employer, last Wednesday after it emerged that they had breached quarantine regulations. They were charged with gross negligence and breach of security and safety rules.
However, the two truck drivers claim they were not informed what the quarantine rules and regulations involved before their removal from the quarantine facility at the Wesbank truck depot on Thursday.
According to them the only awareness they received was a WhatsApp message sent on 8 May reading as follows: “From today STRICT law enforcement by Nampol. Minimize shopping and contact with others during refuelling. Returning drivers to stay in depot/not allowed to go home. For more information contact your line manager.”
“This was the only communication we received and they only came to explain these regulations to us on 14 May.”
The two drivers said they went jogging in the industrial area on 12 May.
“While jogging we received a call saying that health officers were at the depot looking for us. We ran back and the health inspectors asked if we had gone home to our families to which we said no. They went to our homes and interviewed our relatives who also confirmed that they had not seen us since our return.”
According to the two drivers, the company notified them of a 50% salary cut for May the previous day (11 May) and advised them to take letters to their banks to apply for loans. “Since we were allowed to go to the bank, we assumed we could go jogging.”
The duo had been employed at FP du Toit Transport for six and three years respectively.
“We are very disappointed in the way we were treated. We had to buy our own food and spent almost as much as N$250 a day. The company did not give us any incentive while we were quarantined. There were times we had to pee in bottles since the bathroom gets locked at night by one of the guards.”
Walvis Bay urban constituency councillor Knowledge Iipinge shed more light on the whereabouts of the truck driver that tested positive via a statement.
“Since his arrival in Namibia on 8 May, he visited the Buitepost Border Post, OK Foods Gobabis and the FP du Toit depot in Windhoek. On 11 May he visited OK Food Karibib, Navachab Gold Mine and Wesbank Truck deport in Walvis Bay. The next day he visited the Wesbank offices, public ablution and kitchen facilities, as well as Standard Bank Walvis Bay.”
Iipinge confirmed that the truck driver was quarantined at the Wesbank truck depot with his colleague since his arrival in Walvis Bay.
The two gentlemen were taken to the Walvis Bay State Hospital isolation unit.
“The truck driver was initially quarantined for two days at the FP du Toit Transport depots in Windhoek and Walvis Bay respectively. This is the very same facility where he has been sharing public facilities such as toilets and the kitchen with his colleagues, including external service providers.”
Iipinge confirmed that authorities are currently tracing everyone he was in contact with, adding that the process is ongoing.
“My office has been keeping a close eye on the developments related to this truck driver since they were unfairly dismissed by FP du Toit Transport last Wednesday. I was reliably informed that the company did not make any provision for the truck drivers’ food during quarantine and employees had to rely on their relatives and friends to bring them food on-site. The public also entered the company depot between 11 and 21 May 2020 with no restriction, sanitizing or screening.”
At the Walvis Bay State Hospital isolation facility, the two drivers came into contact with two other truck drivers, including a driver who had inconclusive test results in Zambia.
The colleague of the truck driver who tested positive, was moved to an alternative quarantine facility. “In the meantime, my office has engaged the company to obtain its Covid-19 action response plan as part of our investigation,” Iipinge said.
He urged residents not to panic and instead follow established, safety guidelines to minimize the chance of contracting the virus.
“Let us keep on sanitizing our hands, practice social distancing, keep on our masks and restrict movement as much as possible.”
The executive director of the ministry of health and social services, Ben Nangombe, confirmed that they are busy with contact tracing the various places the two drivers visited.
“It’s concerning that the public does not realise the seriousness of Covid-19. The public should protect themselves and others.” He said that a meeting will take place with various stakeholders today.
Standard Bank said it will issue an official statement tomorrow (Tuesday) on the way forward.
The CEO of FP du Toit, Stephan Terblanche, will also issue an official statement on Tuesday, “stating all the facts, explaining what exactly happened”.