Epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala has asked government to urgently formulate a Covid-19 Bill that would, among others, contain key evidence-based approaches and epidemic management structures down to community level.
The cumulative number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Malawi as of yesterday was 1 152, including 14 deaths and 260 recoveries. Out of these, 632 are imported infections and 487 are locally transmitted, while 33 are still under investigation.
In an interview yesterday, Divala said there is need for the new administration led by President Lazarus Chakwera to urgently institute measures that halt the further spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, whose figures continue soaring.
He said: “There is need to formulate a Covid-19 Bill, containing the key evidence-based approaches, finances, epidemic management structures up to community level, relationship to government departments, among others, and seek parliamentary mandate for the management of the pandemic.
“Support health worker efforts. Equip and empower local communities and link them to a continuous system of support and shield their at risk populations. Beef up health workforce and quickly cut spillover mortality by reopening all health services, to pre-Covid-19 status.”
Divala further calls on government to lay down roadmaps to the staggered reopening of schools and economic activity, saying, this demands having data and deliberate surveillance structures in place.
He quashed the 2020/21 National Budget presented on June 12, saying: “In the details, there is nothing that shows interest to boost disease containment at our ports of entry, an area we have heavily suffered on. The budget has nothing to motivate young Malawians to volunteer and beef up the health work force.
“The budget does not have anything to strengthen our weak secondary and tertiary level care, nor does it contain any allocation to enhance community ownership of the epidemic and linkage with higher levels of care.”
On his part, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr John Phuka said the committee will wait for guidance from the new leadership.
He said new infections show that many people are getting the virus from their work places, hence the need for institutions and individuals to play a greater role in ensuring that the virus is tamed.
Said Phuka: “There is new leadership and we should expect that they have a plan. For Malawians, the cases are growing in numbers and we need to enhance prevention measures. As you have seen, we have some clusters that we are looking at like office space, because the contacts for some cases are actually from offices.
“So, I am calling on institutions, individuals to exercise high level re-energised implementation of measures to prevent Covid-19. Local transmission is increasing, clearly showing that we are spreading this locally among ourselves. What we see may just be a tip of the iceberg, because we can’t really claim that we are reaching out to everybody in testing.”
Meanwhile, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe says government should reinforce the guidelines that were set up so that the country’s fight against Covid-19 is effective.
He said: “When the first case was reported, people took it seriously, and followed the rules, but this changed because a minister was given mandate to be announcing cases and some people thought it was political. Let technocrats continue handling the response.”
Jobe also bemoaned the lack of enforcement of guidelines, calling for strict measures for those that do not follow the rules.