With confirmed cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) hitting 82, an epidemiologist Titus Divala from the College of Medicine (CoM) feels it is inappropriate to proceed with the fresh election in the current situation unless electoral stakeholders put in place stringent measures to limit Covid-19 transmission.
Minister of Health Jappie Mhango announced the new cases on Friday, saying 10 more have been recorded in Blantyre, Phalombe, Lilongwe and Mzuzu and out of the 10, six are from local transmission.
Out of the 82 cases, 28 have been imported, 37 cases involve local transmissions, three people have died, three others are still under investigation, creating more fear with the ongoing campaign ahead of the fresh pråesidential poll.
Mhango said seven cases have been recorded in Blantyre, and one each in Mzuzu, Phalombe and Lilongwe.
He said the case in Mzuzu involves a 38-year old Tanzanian fuel tanker driver, who arrived in Malawi on May 20, through Songwe Border.
In Blantyre, Mhango said one of the cases involves a 38-year-old woman who is a health worker from Green Malata, who was tested as part of the Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) initiative to screen and test health workers.
“In Lilongwe, the patient is a 36-year-old man from Senti Township who returned from Zambia on May 18. In Blantyre, apart from the health worker, we have one case in Bangwe involving a person who recently returned from South Africa, while that from Phalombe returned from Mozambique.
“There are two cases in Mbayani and one in Mpingwe who have no travel history, while the cases in Chilobwe and Machinjiri had contacts with confirmed patients of Covid-19,”said Mhango.
Cumulatively, 30 of the cases have been recorded in Lilongwe. There are 24 in Blantyre, 10 in Thyolo, five in Nkhata Bay while Mzuzu has four, Zomba two and there is one each in Karonga, Nkhotakota, Chikwawa, Mangochi, Ntcheu, Mulanje and Phalombe.
Mhango said the local transmissions, at 48, should become a serious concern for Malawians, urging people to exercise caution even during this campaign period.
In an interview on Friday, Divala, who is also a member of the Society of Medical Doctors, said the country’s epidemic had been slow as such there was need to leverage that to strengthen the health system instead of fueling it.
“The best evidence-based weapon we have against Covid-19 is physical distance and elections traditionally involve doing the exact opposite through large gatherings and cross-country movements of political groups, which are a recipe for rapid spread of the disease,” he said.
On the other hand, Divala noted that managing an epidemic of the country’s scale demands stable and focused political leadership.
On his part, health rights activist Maziko Matemba suggested that politicians should involve health workers in areas where they plan to hold rallies so that they help in guiding people on the pandemic.
On March 20, Covid-19 was declared a national disaster in Malawi, and April 2, the first case was registered.
On May 6, President Peter Mutharika appointed a Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 that is co-chaired by Dr. John Phuka from the College of Medicine and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning, and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha.