Namibia’s President Hage Geingob has said his country is facing a “dark and sombre moment” as coronavirus deaths and cases rapidly increase.
The southern African nation is currently experiencing the worst daily death rate on the continent.
The health system is stretched and the country’s mortuaries “have reached maximum capacity”, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said.
The president announced new restrictions to stem the rise in cases.
Addressing the nation, Mr Geingob said that 513 Namibians had died from the virus in the last 15 days.
This is a huge blow for a country of just 2.5 million.
Everyone has either buried a close relative who has died from Covid or knows someone who has, said the health minister, who was speaking after the president.
“Our country is literally in an existential struggle against this pandemic. We are in a fight for our very lives,” Dr Shangula added.
Coronavirus cases have trebled since the beginning of June and the situation is likely to continue to get worse until mid-August at the earliest, the president told Namibians.
He announced new restrictions aimed at helping to contain the spread, including extending a night-time curfew and stopping movement between the country’s regions.
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Hospital capacity has been increased and the country is taking steps to boost the supply of medical oxygen. Last week, Dr Shangula told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that the country’s oxygen reserves had been exhausted.
Less than 5% of Namibians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Our World in Data website.
The vials that the country received have almost all been used up but more deliveries are expected in July and August, the health minister said.
The country has now set aside $34m (£25m) to buy more doses.