Experts have cautioned that rising numbers of new Covid-19 cases are an indication of the beginning of a third wave, urging Malawians and government to play their roles in managing the pandemic.
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has since called on Malawians to remember how challenging the second wave was, further writing the Immigration Department to observe rules on all those entering Malawi.
Statistics from the Public Health Institute of Malawi (Phim) show a rise in cases of Covid-19 in the week beginning May 31 to June 6 when 65 new cases were registered compared to 45 in the previous week.
However, while the number of new cases are rising, the number of people getting the vaccine went down to 4 047 from 10 471 in the previous week.
In separate interviews yesterday, Society for Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi and epidemiologist Titus Divala described the situation as worrisome, saying most people have relaxed on observing preventive measures at the risk of a third wave.
Mithi said the statistics confirm fears of the third wave, but also that most people seem reluctant to get the vaccine.
He said the low uptake of the second jab, which prioritised health care workers, people with comorbidities, and security officers, should not stop facilities from administering the vaccine to those who need it.
Said Mithi: “If we look at neighbouring countries, they are registering many cases, so it could be that we are also moving towards ourselves, our loved ones, and acquaintances.”
Divala said government needs to increase vaccine access and demand creation to ensure all adults aged 50 and above are safe, adding government should capitalise on experiences with the last two waves to deliver a much better Covid-19 response.
On the low uptake of the vaccines, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo said that. When going towards any wave, you have a climbing phase before you reach a climax. For us, it could be that we have started moving upwards. We should be worried because this is sending a message that the third wave is among us.
“On vaccines, we need to encourage as many people to get the vaccine, through the media, community leaders, churches, everyone has to be involved. We need to make deliberate measures by taking the vaccine into unconventional places. Let us not wait for people to come to hospitals, but let us get the vaccine to where they are.”
On his part, Divala said the relaxation of Covid-19 protocols was not helping, urging people to take personal responsibility by getting the vaccine, observing physical distancing and also monitoring oneself for symptoms and seeking medical help.
He said: “These numbers are a strong confirmation of the beginning of the third wave of Covid-19 in Malawi. It is a warning to all of us to start playing our role in protecting the second vaccine dose will follow the same order as the first one by prioritising frontline health workers.
He said: “It is following the same order. I think that’s why people are failing to understand why the weekend coverage was very low. You remember we launched the first one on March 11, it wasn’t until the 15th when we started giving the wider jab.
“The first week is for health care workers, and we started issuing out notices via SMS to some members to get their jab, so they will follow the date that we send there. So the majority will start [getting the second vaccine] this week onwards.”
Earlier, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences epidemiology and public health professor Adamson Muula told The Nation that Malawi needs to start focusing on enforcing prevention measures.
Meanwhile, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma has admitted that the events in South Africa and Zambia were scary, saying government had taken steps to curb importing of the pandemic.
He said:”When you look at the averages for a week, then we should be concerned because it means that there is more of the infection circulating at the community level.For now, we must observe the rules.”
Nkhoma called on law enforcement agencies and Malawians themselves to be vigilant in ensuring that the pandemic does not erupt as it did at the peak of the second wave in January this year, when people had stopped following measures due to festivities.
Malawi has confirmed existence of three variants-of-concern (VOC), namely the Indian variant (Delta or B.1.617.2), the South African variant (Beta or B.1.351) and the United Kingdom variant (Alpha or B.1.1.7).
This means Malawi has three of the four variants classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as VOC, whose characteristics, according to WHO, include increased transmissibility and secondary attack rate for Alpha and Delta.
Meanwhile, neighbouring countries like South Africa, where scores of Malawians have been returning from, has been registering over 3 000 cases a day, Zambia registered 1 767 cases on Tuesday while Mozambique is averaging at least 30 cases daily.