Half of confirmed coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic cases in the country are linked to neighboring Tanzania with returning residents, transporters and businesspersons as major sources, an analysis has shown. The Nation analysis, corroborated by Minister of Health Jappie Mhango, shows that of the 63 Covid-19cases in the country, 32, representing about 50.79percent originated from Tanzania.
In all, there are 21imported Covid-19 cases with 10 of them from Tanzania while the 11 are shared among India, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Dubai, Canada, South Africa and Mozambique. But the 10 cases from Tanzania, according to our analysis, have affected 22 other people in Malawi out of the 40 local transmissions. The case involving a businessperson based at Kaliyeka in Lilongwe, who had returned from Tanzania, led to 10 others getting affected in the area, two others at Chilinde within Lilongwe and one at Chiputula in Mzuzu.
The Bvumbwe case in Thyolo, confirmed on May6, led to eight others getting affected with the pandemic while that involving 40-year-old man from Mzilawaingwe in Mzuzu recorded on May 3 was also locally transmitted to a 20-year-old woman in the same area. Cases of individual returnees that have not yet made local transmissions include three in Nkhata Bay, one each in Karonga and Chileka in Blantyre and the two Tanzanians whose cases were confirmed on May 4 in Blantyre.
By district, Lilongwe has 23 cases followed by Blantyre with 16 and Thyolowith nine while Mzuzu and Nkhata Bay have three each. Zomba, Chikwawa, Nkhotakota, Karonga, Mangochi and Mulanje districts have one each. Since April 2 when the first three Covid-19 cases were announced in the country, there have been three deaths—two in Lilongwe and one in Blantyre.
In reaction to the rising imported cases, health rights activist Maziko Matemba has suggested the need for the country’s border posts to have screening, testing and quarantine centres to ensure that people are only cleared after 14 days. In an interview, he said: “Let us have these centres at all our borders, especially Songwe [in Karonga].
What is happening now is not helping and we may not win this battle because you let people get into the country without being checked properly. “The other thing is that for those getting vehicles from Tanzania or fuel, let them get the vehicle sat Songwe border. Let Tanzanian drivers come to the border, exchange the papers, sanitise the vehicles and Malawian drivers must take over from there, not allowing people from other countries to come in.
It will not help us.”Karonga district director of health and social services David Sibale, whose area is the conduit for people travelling to and from Tanzania through Songwe Border Post, said they have discussed at length on how to deal with the problem. He said: “Some of the possible interventions that can help include targeted screening for all high risk groups such as truck drivers and if we can manage, almost everyone coming inform that side must be screened.
“Having a quarantine centre right at the border would help so that before people proceed to Mzuzu and other places, we should be ensuring that they are negative. With the testing centre opening soon in Karonga, we feel it will help a lot, because we will no longer have to ferry samples to Mzuzu which is far and costly. “The centre is being set up at Chilumba site of Karonga Prevention Study (KPS) and people are now being trained on the same.
Sibale said cartridges for the testing kits are expected to arrive on May 20. Ministry of Health chief of health services Dr. Charles Mwansambo has acknowledged the challenges in dealing with people who enter the country, but said measures are being put in place to deal with the same.
He said: “You know that we have not closed the borders completely because we still have essential goods coming in. So, when these people get to the border, they are just followed up to where they live like any other. “I am glad to mention that we will soon start testing in Karonga, where all these people will be tested before they travel to wherever they are going. It is a bit tricky situation. We need to be extra careful with the borders and the Ministry of Finance as well as Foreign Affairs will have to guide on what has to be done o our borders, to close them or not.”Mwansambo also thanked security agencies for patrolling border areas to intercept those thattry to enter the country through uncharted routes.
Currently, Malawi has nineCovid-19 testing sites, namely; National Health Reference Laboratory (NHRL) in Lilongwe, College of Medicine Laboratory and Malawi Liverpool Welcome Trust (MLW) in Blantyre. Others are Mzuzu and Zomba Central Hospitals’ laboratories, Mzimba South district hospital laboratory, Balaka Dream laboratory, as well as Thyolo and Nsanje district hospitals ‘laboratories.