Business and innovation opportunities exist all around us. The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is no different as it has given business opportunities to many and unleashed innovations at both local and international scenes.
While plastic ware manufacturers have sort of hit the jackpot selling buckets for hand-washing, the country’s institutions of higher learning have demonstrated their capabilities and innovations. This is commendable.
I am particularly impressed with news from Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must), Mzuzu University (Mzuni) and the University of Malawi (Unima) through two of its constituent colleges—The Polytechnic, College of Medicine (CoM) and Chancellor College (Chanco).
To its credit, Chanco has set up a laboratory at its campus to carry out Covid-19 tests. This will surely bridge the testing gap in the old capital, Zomba which hitherto had none. The country has four testing centres with one each in Mzuzu and Lilongwe and two in Blantyre.
Chanco has gone a step further to renovate a structure to be converted into a care centre for staff and the Zomba community. The college is also producing hand sanitisers and has designed a low-cost ventilator, among others.
Mzuni, on the other hand, has also embarked on mass production of hand sanitisers, a social service initiative that will see the university giving the products for free to vulnerable communities.
Must and The Polytechnic have improvised or devised automatic hand-washing machines that dispense hand sanitisers to facilitate hand-washing in the Covid-19 era. In the case of Must, the machine automatically dispenses soap and has sensors. It can be powered by multiple sources such as solar, batteries or electricity.
Must is also producing personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The equipment includes face masks, gloves and aprons.
Must has also partnered CoM and scientists from the two institutions banging heads in coming up with relevant but locally derived innovations against Covid-19.
At continental level, the Institut Pasteur lab in Senegal has developed an affordable vaccine to test for the global respiratory infection declared a pandemic in March by World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to Al Jazeera, Senegal’s Institut Pasteur lab used its past experience in containing HIV and Aids and Ebola to develop a $1 (about K744) test.
The innovation was originally developed to test dengue fever and has been used in a universal vaccination campaign in the West African country over the years. How does it work? Patients draw their saliva onto a testing device and wait for a ‘bloodline’ to reveal their status.
Besides the academic institutions, there are several institutions and individuals across the world tirelessly working to find a vaccine and other solutions to fight Covid-19.
Information is also key to winning the war against Covid-19. It is important that we all follow basic health and hygiene measures to ensure safety in our communities. Measures such as social or physical distancing, washing hands with soap regularly, desisting from touching our faces, nose and mouths are critical to preventing the spread of Covid-19.
I would also like to salute healthcare workers across the world and in Malawi in particular for the sacrifices they are making in ensuring that the pandemic impact is minimised. In our case, the healthcare workers are overstretched and resource-constrained yet they are giving out their best in caring for the sick and conducting tests.
Fighting Covid-19 requires that we all play a role. There should be no spectators. We are all prone to contracting Covid-19 regardless of our faith, political affiliation, economic status or race. Covid-19 is real. The virus is in our midst. At the time of writing this on Tuesday evening, Malawi had 36 positive cases, including three deaths and five recoveries. Stay safe and, where possible, stay at home or work from home.