The Malawi Police Service has stepped up its efforts in road accident prevention by, among others, cracking a whip on drunk driving.
The country has lost a lot of productive citizens through road carnage and the efforts by the law enforcers to curb drunk driving are commendable.
The K200 000 government general receipts issued to drivers found to be intoxicated beyond the legal limit which have been making rounds on social media look frightening.
They are frightening considering the pain of paying such a fine in the current economic situation.
The breathalyser, a tool that the police uses to test the alcohol levels in drivers, is the sure way of ascertaining the motorist did not have one too many.
One version of the breathalysers requires the driver to forcefully exhale or blow into its intake mouthpiece for the machine to detect if the droplets in the breath do not have high alcohol concentration levels.
The machine has lights which change from green to orange or red to indicate the level of of alcohol in the particular motorist.
The process above, if not properly handled, may become a drawback in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
Medical experts state that Covid-19 is predominantly spread through particles or droplets from coughing, sneezing and forceful exhales near others.
Breathalysers demand forceful exhales for effective data processing and minimal social distance for reach out which, unfortunately, are against the Covid-19 prevention protocols.
At a roadside alcohol testing point, there are usually a number of people who take turns to get tested. Despite the Covid-19 cases showing a downward trend, the risk of catching the virus from using a single gadget remains.
If the gadget is used on one Covid-19 positive case, it will be a danger to users and operators alike.
Motorists undergoing the tests go through the same inadequately sanitised instrument may be lining up themselves on the firing line at a time when we have just come out of the third wave.
The police officers are equally at high risk due to inadequate personal protective equipment when undertaking this risky task.
While not trivialising the importance of roadside alcohol rapid tests, especially now as we head towards the festive season, I would rather call upon authorities to ensure Covid-19 safety for the men and women in uniform as well as civilians as they enforce the road safety regulations.
This health concern due to the use of breathalysers is not only limited to the Malawi Police Service, it also goes to all essential industries that undertake blood alcohol concentration screening tests as part of workplace employee safety and health protocols.
Alternative to the breathalyser, there has been a new highly effective and low risk oral fluid alcohol screening solution approved by countries such as the United States of America.
It is administered without any physical contact between tester and subject. The method is safe and should be considered in our country to complement our national efforts of controlling the Covid-19 pandemic as well as road carnage caused by drunk driving.
While all sectors and institutions in the country are working hard to implement Covid-19 prevention measures, it is my plea to the Malawi Police Service to execute their duties within all precautionary standards using Covid risk-free solutions.
It won’t make sense to arrest individuals for not wearing face masks while on the other hand conducting unsafe alcohol screening. This will defeat the government’s whole idea of keeping Malawi safe from the Covid-19 pandemic.