welve members of the late Ibrahim Dudha’s family in Kaliyeka in Lilongwe, whose patriarch died of Covid-19 on Wednesday, have been put on self-quarantine after 10 of them tested positive for coronavirus.
Nation on Sunday crew on Friday spoke to some members of the family in their compound and established that two of them—a girl, aged five, and another, aged 17—who tested negative are also living in the same compound heightening risk of exposure to the virus.
According to the family members, health officials visited them on Wednesday, but only advised them to report to hospital if any one of them falls sick.
Currently, none of the members of the household has reported any symptoms of Covid-19.
In all, health officials tested 24 people at the compound on Wednesday where Dudha operated a garage. Out of the 24, 10 tested positive, including a seven-year-old girl.
“They told us they were coming back to test us but have not come up to now. So, we don’t know whether it’s safe for us to be with our families, but we are already facing stigma from the community,” said Joseph Dudha, son to the deceased.
While the family is grateful for the support it has received from the community, which is donating food and helping them access amenities outside its compound, it is bitter with government and the general public for the manner it has handled the matter.
“We are all mourning, but we are more concerned with what is circulating on social media. We feel we have been mistreated. We learnt that we had tested positive from the radio and our names are all over the Internet, that was humiliating,” said Joseph.
The late Dudha, who had a pre-existing condition, was a thriving businessperson whose frequent trips outside the country for his car spare parts business might have brought him into contact with the virus.
His workmates, too, have not yet been tested despite having been exposed to him. Neither have they been isolated from their families, according to those Nation on Sunday spoke to on Friday.
They said after Dudha’s death, Ministry of Health officials went to his garage, but only recorded names of people they found there.
“They recorded names of 12 individuals who work here. Normally, 10 people work here,” said one of the workers.
A colleague of the late Dudha, who has worked at the garage for two years, said in the absence of feedback, the development has left the workers whose names were recorded, confused and stigmatised.
Health watchdog Malawi Equity Health Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe, in an interview on Friday, said there was need to review government’s measures in handling Covid-19. He said there was need to start institutional quarantine for all positive cases to protect the public.
Jobe said while government might be following some international protocols on handling positive cases, it was necessary to ensure that local measures take note of local realities.
“We are proposing that everyone who tests positive— whether with mild or severe conditions—should be put on institutional quarantine,” he said.
Meanwhile, World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Nonhlanhla Rosemary Dlamini and Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) country director Andrew Auld on Friday vouched for the accuracy of the results of the tests local health officials made on several members of the Dudha family in Kaliyeka.
The two officials said samples taken are processed at a top-notch laboratory with the right equipment and qualified staff at the Public Health Institute of Malawi which receives support from the two international organisations.