Staying strong in the face of Covid-19: Namdock’s message of support to the local community

The local authority areas of Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Arandis, in accordance with the Namibian presidential announcement on Monday 06 July, will remain at stage 3 of the national lockdown. This is due to an unfortunate surge in the number of Covid-19 infections recently, which have increased nationally to 593 to date – with 81 percent of the most recent cases originating in the Erongo region.

“The socio-economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been extremely harsh, and unfortunately our region – and Walvis Bay in particular – has been no exception. As a leading local company, with a large and long-serving local workforce, we are extremely concerned by the effects and ramifications of this on the local community,” states Heritha Nankole Muyoba, Acting CEO of Namdock.

Established ship repair and wholly Namibian-owned company Namdock, a stalwart of the Walvis Bay community, is classified as an essential service provider by the Ministry of Industrialisation Trade and SME Development. Resuming operations on 5 May 2020, Namdock has been extremely proactive in ensuring that all its employees have adhered to stringent sanitisation and social distancing measures. This has been to ensure that work and operations could continue, while minimising the risk of any potential infection as far as possible.

“Before the initial commencement of the lockdown, we instituted company-wide influenza vaccinations, and distributed sanitisation packs to our workforce,” Nankole Muyoba advises. She adds that, prior to the resumption of full operations, the company provided comprehensive training on the prevention of Covid-19 infection transmission; and, since then, has also instituted a two-shift process, to further adhere to  social and physical distancing directives.

All employees have been issued with washable and reusable face masks at two-weekly intervals. The wearing of these, as well as hand sanitising at stations throughout Namdock’s facilities, and temperature checking at all entry and exit points, is mandatory.

Despite all measures taken, three of the company’s employees tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of June, and are currently in Namdock’s own isolation facility, where they are being fully medically monitored, and periodically re-tested, until they test negative and are cleared to go home. Five other employees who were in contact have duly been quarantined and are currently awaiting their test results.

“These unfortunate positive cases have also meant that we as a company are not inviolable – despite all our stringent sanitisation and other prevention efforts – and that we have felt the effects of this pandemic very closely,” Nankole Muyoba comments.

“However, our concern for our people – and the greater Walvis Bay community – goes even deeper than taking proactive and responsible measures to protect them and prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

All our employees have families, and are part of the greater local community, which is not only suffering health-wise, but also from an educational and economic perspective at this incredibly challenging time. Children cannot attend school in the normal way, causing concern over the longer-term impact on their education; and also very worryingly, many members of the community are working for less pay or even being retrenched from their jobs, as companies in the region are suffering from the negative financial effects of this terrible pandemic.

We have furthermore been saddened and concerned to see that some fellow countrymen and women are even being stigmatised for being positive. We all need to remember that anyone of us could get the virus at any time. As a country, we have also been very lucky that there have, to date, been no fatalities, for which we are very thankful,” she comments.

Bearing in mind that practical assistance goes a long way at times like this, Namdock has been proactive in analysing the status of the Erongo region’s medical facilities and pandemic care readiness, to see where it could help.

To this end, the company has recently assisted the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) in their efforts to create more isolation facilities in Walvis Bay.

“Part of this was to renovate the old tuberculosis (TB) ward called Kondja. However, before this project could commence, the first COVID 19 case was recorded in Walvis Bay, and renovations had to be pended while the building was used by the Ministry for that patient.

In the meantime, we also offered to convert the garages just across from the Kondja ward into additional isolation facilities. The facility we have now renovated, which also has ablution facilities, can house 13 patients simultaneously. This project has been completed and the facility was officially handed over to the MOHSS to use on Wednesday 1 July,” she explains.

In addition to this, Namdock has repaired the existing 24 oxygen points at the Swakopmund state hospital; as well as adding another 12 additional oxygen points, and converting a storeroom into toilets, during the preparation of the COVID 19 facility at ward 6.

The company has also assisted with the repair and fabrication of hospital beds for the Walvis Bay hospital; and cast plinths for bulk oxygen tanks at Walvis Bay state hospital and Swakopmund state hospital.

Over and above these various practical projects, Namdock’s management is also very involved in the local Covid-19 task team:

“The task team has been set up to work on a variety of different initiatives in a bid to prevent further infections and fight the spread of the virus, in Walvis Bay and our surrounding communities – which sadly, are very vulnerable. We are also looking at several risk mitigation measures – as well as important issues such as the availability of quarantine facilities,” she advises.

“Nobody knows exactly when the virus infection curve will peak, and finally begin to flatten out. Therefore, as tough and often unpleasant as these times are, it is beholden on each and every one of us in the Walvis Bay community to remember we are all in this together. We need to reach out, not just at the corporate level, but as families and individuals, to our fellow Namibians at this time of need, and all play our part in firstly surviving, and then in the aftermath of this pandemic, rebuilding our town and our community.

As a leading corporate citizen and local employer, we at Namdock are committed to doing everything possible to assist not only our employees but the Walvis Bay community. Together, we will get through this!” Nankole Muyoba concludes.