Hauliers, officials keep Covid at bay
The temporary quarantine facility at Walvis Bay is helping to keep Covid-19 infections low.
02 February 2021 | Infrastructure
Edward Shivute; Walvis Bay Corridor Group; “We realised we were going to focus on preventing the port from becoming an epicentre for the virus…”
An acute quarantine regime with progressive buy-in from the road freight sector has helped health officials to curb the coronavirus in Walvis Bay.
Namibia's primary port city is served by five hinterland linkages from Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The response from all concerned, both public and private, meant Walvis Bay has been – for the most part – kept free of becoming the epicentre of an outbreak health officials feared it could become because of its exposure to incoming freight-sector personnel.
“Most companies came on board through quick response of transport operators. It helped us to keep the transmission rate below 10%, an astonishing achievement compared to how quickly community transmission skyrocketed,” said Edward Shivute, a project manager for the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG).
Shivute explained the port's Covid containment approach comprised several key elements.
“It includes having roadside clinics along all four of the port's feeder routes - the Trans-Cunene into Angola, the Ndola-Lubumbashi Corridor (NLC) into the Copperbelt area on the border of Zambia and the DRC, the Trans-Kalahari through Botswana towards Gauteng, as well as the Trans-Oranje across this river into South Africa's Northern Cape Province.”
The combined logistical planning around staging a temporary quarantine facility on the M36/C14 road just outside Walvis Bay however helped the WBCG to keep transmission from truck drivers at below 10%.
“Walvis Bay is where truck drivers from all these corridors converge, and we realised we were going to focus on preventing the port from becoming an epicenter for the virus.”
Shivute explained this entailed a mix of strategies involving multi-sectoral partners, health and social services, and assistance from transporters who provided containers to create a “walled in” facility opposite the Dunes Mall.
As a result of the combined confinement effort, truck drivers – both local and foreign – had an overnight area where they could safely stay.
The facility was also equipped with the necessary testing requirements to adequately serve drivers, additional amenities to make their stay as comfortable as possible, and it was watched over by the Namibian Police Force (Nampol).
“Previously such a facility was non-existent. We also integrated HIV-related services and treatment and comorbidities such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes,” he said.
Despite keeping a tight check on the facility, a local driver managed to breach security for a night on the town in Walvis Bay. Known as Case 21, it caused a spreader event with many positive cases of the virus traced to the one driver.
According to Shivute, they learned from this one incident how to deal with infection flare-ups and how not to stigmatise drivers.
“It helped us to adapt our approach and increase awareness among drivers of the dangers of Covid-19, what needs to be done to stop contracting a potentially fatal virus, and what transporters ought to do in providing things like masks and hand sanitiser to help their employees.”