While many world leaders, including in Africa, have addressed citizens on the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and provided policy direction on dealing with it, President Peter Mutharika has maintained silence on the matter.
Malawi’s neighbours Zambia and Tanzania have recorded two and one case, respectively, with World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus urging African countries to prepare for the worst of Covid-19 as cases increase on the continent.
When contacted yesterday on what the President’s message is on the pandemic or what policy position he is taking, State House press secretary Mgeme Kalilani did not pick our calls nor respond to the questionnaire we sent him.
But he told The Nation earlier this week that the President is yet to give his official position, urging people to follow tips from the Ministry of Health.
Said Kalilani: “Should there be a message from the President on the subject you will be informed. Please let’s encourage people to follow the health tips and the updates on coronavirus that the Ministry of Health is issuing.”
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe has since warned that without decisive policies, Malawi will find it difficult to control the outbreak.
The spread of Covid-19 has forced many countries to institute restrictions on a number of operations and activities, with Zambian President Edgar Lungu banning public gatherings, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa banning gatherings of over 100 people, while Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has called on individuals to avoid unnecessary personal contact to combat the virus that has killed thousands of people globally.
But Jobe, in an interview yesterday urged government to institute stronger measures to prevent the virus, including travel bans, especially to and from coronavirus affected countries.
He said: “Malawi has come up with a list of countries from which people are put on self-quarantine or observation. Government should ban people from such countries from entering Malawi unless they are travelling for essential services such as healthcare service provision or security.
“We need Malawi as a country to do something on policies and if we do not then life will be difficult. We have seen how the virus is being spread in South Africa. If we register a case, it will be difficult to control because of the way people mingle and greet each other here.”
Government was yesterday expected to announce new health guidelines that would include measures on public gatherings, self-quarantine and promotion of behaviourial change to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
But Dr Matthews Kagoli of Public Health Institute of Malawi, which provides leadership in disease surveillance, research, prevention and control, said an announcement on the intervention will follow a health cluster meeting.
But Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi chairperson Amos Nyaka, who is also an ophthalmologist at Kamuzu Central Hospital says the country has enough capacity to detect suspected cases and that there are about seven facilities set aside for quarantine.
Ministry of Health figures indicate that as of March 17 2020, over 285 travellers were on surveillance for 14 days after landing at Kamuzu and Chileka international airports.
As of yesterday, Covid-19 had affected over 203 612 people globally, with 8 229 dying while over 82 000 have recovered. Africa has registered over 400 confirmed cases, but Malawi is yet to confirm a case.