Minister of Health Jappie Mhango has warned that 50 000 Malawians could die from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic if the virus first diagnosed in China last December persists for one year.
The minister was speaking during a news conference in Lilongwe on Monday where he announced that the country has recorded a fifth Covid-19 case since Thursday.
Mhango said: “If the disease was to hit the country for a year, 85 percent of [the 17.5 million] people will be infected with Lilongwe being the hardest hit.
“Over 85 percent or 16 million people will become infected over one year. Of those infected, it is anticipated that 483 000 people will be hospitalised and 85 000 people will be in critical condition in need of critical care and up to 50 000 people could die directly from Covid-19.”
The minister, who is also chairperson of the Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19, said one of the five cases is critical while the four are mild.
He said: “Yesterday [Sunday] we recorded a new case of Covid-19 in Blantyre. This has brought the number of cases to five—three in Lilongwe and two in Blantyre. Out of the five, four are mild while one is in critical condition.”
Mhango said the last patient arrived in Malawi on March 28 from the United Kingdom (UK), but is not in the same household as the fourth case also based in Blantyre and coincidentally travelled from the UK as well.
But the minister could not disclose the exact location the people are staying, saying the move is meant to avoid discrimination and stigma.
“Just know that the latest case returned home on 28th March and has been quarantined at her home,” he said.
But by the date the fifth case is said to have travelled from the UK and arrived in Malawi on March 28, the UK was on lockdown effective March 23 in a bid to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.
Currently, all the five cases are being treated in their respective homes and none has been referred to a special facility yet, according to the minister.
Said Mhango: “For the Area 9 one [the index patient], all the 14 people were locked down in their compound and are being monitored from there.
“We have created facilities to be used as institutional quarantine centres at the Skin Department and Cancer Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital [in Lilongwe] as well as in Blantyre and Mzuzu.
“In district hospitals, spaces have been cleared in readiness for the coronavirus cases.”
President Peter Mutharika, who announced the first three cases in the country last Thursday, has since directed that K15 billion be set aside for the fight against Covid-19.
Mhango said Treasury has so far released K2.4 billion and some of the money has been disbursed to district health offices (DHOs).
But the minister could not disclose how the funds disbursed to date have been used, saying: “We were given K2.4 billion out of which K1.1 billion was released to DHOs. The remainder is still with the ministry intact.”
Ministry of Health says the country needs about K100 billion to effectively fight Covid-19.
Mutharika, who on March 20 banned public gatherings of more than 100 people and ordered closure of schools from March 23 as part of precautionary measures to guard against Covid-19, on Saturday announced additional measures, including a 10 percent cut in his salary and that of his Cabinet for three months, a reduction in fuel prices, softening of tax and loan repayments, among other things.
Following the President’s announcements, the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima committed 100 percent of his estimated K1.7 million monthly pay to the cause for three months.
Meanwhile, the Lilongwe DHO has traced the 60 people who could have been either in direct or indirect contact with the 61-year-old woman first diagnosed with Covid-19 after travelling to India.
The 60 also included students at Bishop Mackenzie International High School where the first case’s grandson learns.
Covid-19 has rapidly spread from China to European countries and the United States of America, and recently it has been reported in 46 African countries, Malawi inclusive where four confirmed cases has been reported.