Blantyre has run out of body bags used to wrap Covid-19 dead bodies as statistics show the district is the worst hit with 40.3 percent of deaths and 28 percent of cases nationwide.
In an interview yesterday, Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) director of health and social services Gift Kawalazira confirmed the shortage of body bags, saying his office has since appealed for help from neighbouring districts.
He said: “We have asked for help from other districts like Chikwawa, Mulanje, Chiradzulu and Thyolo and they have shown commitment to help.”
Kawalazira said he was optimistic that the DHO will have the body bags today.
Commenting on the high registered cases, Kawalazira said the district has been conducting more tests than any other in the country.
Statistics from Ministry of Health’s Public Health Institute of Malawi indicate that as of Sunday, Blantyre had 840 confirmed cases, representing 28 percent of national cases at 2 992. The commercial city had also registered 25 deaths, representing 40.3 percent of national deaths which was at 62. While the country has registered 1 153 recoveries (38.5 percent recovery rate), Blantyre had only 114, representing 13.6 percent recovery rate.
Comparatively, Lilongwe has registered 577 confirmed cases, 10 deaths and 307 recoveries, representing 53.2 percent recovery rate; while Mzuzu had 415 cases, 10 deaths and 172 recoveries, representing 41.4 percent recovery rate.
The PHIM report further indicates that Blantyre has conducted 9 092 tests representing 37.6 percent, compared to Lilongwe’s 5 651 tests (33.4 percent) and Mzuzu’s 1 662 tests (6.9 percent).
Kawalazira, however, feared that the district may have more unrecorded cases due to limited resources as the DHO is only testing those showing Covid-19 symptoms due to the shortage of test kits.
On the recoveries, he admitted that the DHO is overwhelmed by cases of the deadly pandemic which makes it difficult to follow up on patients.
Said Kawalazira: “It is difficult to record recoveries normally because we are now in community phase of transition, which means the disease is almost everywhere and it’s not practical for our health officers to follow each and every contact.”
Reacting to the low recovery rate in Blantyre, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe said many patients are recovering but they may not have been captured by the PHIM statistics due to shortage of test kits.
He said each case is supposed to go for retest after 14 days but due to shortage of test kits, people are not able to access the re-test.
Said Jobe: “They are only testing critically ill patients. This means there are people who have recovered but they haven’t been tested.”
In a separate interview, infectious disease expert Dr Titus Divala said as the pandemic has reached community phase, the best mode of prevention was for everyone to treat the next person as a Covid-19 patient and strictly follow preventive measures to avoid transmitting or acquiring the virus.
He warned: “The avoidance of infection or infecting the person next to you, loved ones, community, or the nation, is maximised by staying and working from home at all cost. If absolutely essential that you have to leave home, wear a mask.
“Maintain hand hygiene at all times. Wash hands on entry and exit of every place. Wash hands at every opportunity. Cough inside a mask. Treat yourself as if you have Covid-19 and do not want to pass it on to those next to you.”
Commenting on the rise of Covid-19 cases, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) executive director George Khaki stressed the need for Malawi to have regulations to back up the preventive measures that are already in place.
He observed that whatever efforts are put on preventive measures, it will be difficult to enforce if they are not backed by law.
Said Khaki: “Government should quickly come up with regulations to come up with the current measure. Wearing of masks in the workplace and public places should be advocated. People should now realise that Covid is real and is not a joke.”
For people in rural areas who cannot afford to buy masks, Society of Medical Doctors president Dr Victor Mithi earlier told The Nation that they should manage with the resources they have, by largely making masks from cloths, among other things.