Political leaders sharpen swords for Covid battle
20 July 2021 | Local News
Roger Nautoro; Mayor: Omaruru; “My concern is that if more people die, we would not know what to do.”
With the growing number of Covid cases and deaths, political leaders have rolled up their sleeves to serve their residents to combat the pandemic in the Erongo region.
The region, which recorded the first death in the country and was an epicentre last year, is now setting an example to the rest of the country on how to mitigate the pandemic.
Mayor Trevino Forbes said leaders ought to lead by example in order to encourage the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
With Namibia having recorded its highest number of Covid deaths on Wednesday (150), political leaders like Forbes, have an instrumental role to play in combatting the spread of the virus.
“In every speech that I deliver I mention the importance of getting vaccinated,” Forbes, who was Covid-19 positive in May and recovered, said.
He recently received his first dose of Sinopharm.
The mayor added that the Walvis Bay municipality is looking at introducing a contingency plan that would provide solutions to the pandemic.
“I am optimistic that the town still has sufficient space in their cemeteries to accommodate the growing number of Covid fatalities. We rely on information that the respective departments give us, and they said that we do not have to worry,” said Forbes.
Responding to the question as to whether the municipality has a solution for residents who died of Covid-19 and wished to be cremated before being transported to other regions for burial, the mayor said that it is a ministry of health and social services’ issue.
“It is not in our hands.”
There are currently five approved cemetery grounds at the harbour town. Of the five cemetery grounds, one is closed due to being full to capacity. The other three are active and one is undeveloped.
These cemeteries include Mulderene (oldest cemetery) in the Industrial area, Kuisebmond Cemetery, Walvis Bay Cemetery (town), Narraville Cemetery and the New Narraville Cemetery (undeveloped).
The Narraville Cemetery’s estimated time before it reaches capacity is two to three years, while for Kuisebmond Cemetery, it is five to six years.
It is estimated that six to eight years are still remaining before the Walvis Bay Cemetery in town reaches full capacity.
“These are estimations based on burial statics and bookings. The pandemic has however, changed the projections as we at times see more than five burials per weekend per cemetery,” said the public relations officer for the Walvis Bay municipality, Caty Sheya.
According to her, the municipality adopted a strategy to mitigate the growing number of Covid deaths in recent months.
“Planning for the new Narraville Cemetery is at an advanced stage. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the proposed new Narraville Cemetery is done and an Environmental Clearance Certificate from the Ministry of Environment has been issued.”
Sheya said that the next step is surveying Narraville Extension 8, where the new cemetery is located and an engineering contractor for land servicing will be appointed.
“Only then will the development of the cemetery facilities like a boundary wall and ablution facility commence. As for the Kuisebmond Cemetery, a consultant for undertaking an EIA will be appointed.”
The mayor of Arandis, Erastus Kandetu, said that he is not yet vaccinated as he is waiting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to arrive in the country. According to the mayor, his goal is to see everyone in the town vaccinated.
“We hand out flyers to residents to raise awareness, even though we know that it is their own choice to go and get the vaccine.”
When asked if the cemetery in Arandis has enough space to bury people amid the rising number of Covid deaths, the mayor responded that it is too small for burials to take place there. “People mainly come to Arandis to work. When they pass on, they are buried in their respective towns where they come from.”
Omaruru mayor, Roger Nautoro, said that there are several initiatives which have been put in place by the town council to urge residents to get the jab.
“We publish flyers on social media through which we encourage residents to get vaccinated. We have also availed the town hall in Ozondje township as a vaccination point,” said Nautoro, who recently took his first dose of Sinopharm.
According to the mayor, there are three cemeteries namely the S.I Gobs Cemetery, Omaruru Cemetery and the Ozondje Cemetery.
“Only the S.I Gobs Cemetery which is situated in town is full to capacity. More space is currently being made available. The Omaruru cemetery is approximately 75% full while the Ozondje Cemetery is estimated to have reached 50% capacity.”
Nautoro said that a more pressing concern is the limited capacity of the Omaruru district hospital’s mortuary, which only caters for six bodies. “If more people die, we would not know what to do,” he said.
The regional councillor for the Swakopmund constituency, Ciske Howard, says that her office has pledged to fight the Covid-19 pandemic by raising awareness about vaccination to the public.
“I have started with a vaccine drive targeting companies to make sure that we can get people vaccinated,” said Howard, who is also the chairperson of the Erongo regional council.
Howard, who is pregnant, did not take the Covid jab yet, said she would do so once she can. She has ordered a bulk supply of vitamins and immune boosters for members of public who are not willing to vaccinate.
“We will encourage the people through the vitamin drive to also vaccinate.” she said.
According to the CEO of Swakopmund, Archie Benjamin, of the four cemeteries in town, the Swakopmund Cemetery in Kramesdorf is the only one nearing capacity.
“It has reached approximately 90% capacity with approximately 400 grave sites left. We are looking to extend its boundaries because there has been a surge in the number of deaths,” he said.
The other two cemeteries, the Mondesa Cemetery and the Tamariskia Cemetery, are both at 45% capacity respectively.
The mayor of Henties Bay, Lewies Vermaak, encourage residents of the town to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Vermaak recently teamed up with the mayor of Walvis Bay, Trevino Forbes, and other mayors of the Erongo region who received the AstraZeneca vaccination.
"I am encouraging everyone to be vaccinated, because it is the only way we can prevent Covid-19 from taking people from us," said Vermaak.
He believes that the reduction of Covid-19 related deaths experienced in other countries is enough evidence that the vaccine is reliable.
"There are a few people who have died of blood clots and such as a result of the vaccine, but it is a very few. Millions of people have been vaccinated and only a few have died, which is less than the number of people we will lose as a result of Covid-19," he said.
Vermaak emphasised that while everyone has the right to decide whether they want to be vaccinated, it is the right thing to do.
"It remains everyone's choice, but it gives you a chance to survive Covid. In countries where the majority have been vaccinated, they still have Covid cases, but their deaths have dropped dramatically," he said.
Vermaak said that the space capacity of the cemetery in Henties Bay is not posing a headache.
"I would say it is less than half full. It is the only facility we have and was recently expanded. This expansion will provide enough space for the next three to four years.”