Health experts and government have warned against relaxation in adherence to coronavirus precautionary measures despite dwindling new cases, saying recklessness could bring catastrophic results in the event of another wave of attack.
Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi said while it was early to project a new wave of the Covid 19 attack for Malawi, chances were high, especially in the face of continued relaxation by the public in following up precautionary measures, including use of face masks, washing hands with soap and restrictions on public gatherings.
He said: “The trend from outside countries is a bit fearsome if we compare with what is happening in Malawi. It is too early to call, but we should start preparing for another wave and if we are not careful, it could be different this time.
“You might recall that the disease came with a lot of fears and people prepared because of such fears, but when it came, we observed that things did not happen the way we expected and naturally everyone decided to start relaxing. That resulted into where we are now.”
Mithi advised the public and government to ensure continued adherence to the set measures until a vaccine is found to comfortably conclude that the country can easily deal with the disease.
In a separate interview on Monday, epidemiologist Titus Divala also said the matter was not straightforward.
Like Mithi, he said the few cases being registered could also be a result of fewer tests being conducted as compared to the peak period.
Said Divala: “There is currently a survey being conducted in some parts of the country and we expect the results soon. Those results are likely to give us a true picture on the ground. But you must also know that we are not testing a lot, that’s why maybe we have few numbers.”
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango, in a separate interview on Tuesday, admitted that testing was restricted to the asymptomatic, including those arriving in large groups from South Africa.
He said: “It is not time to relax, that is why we keep on asking everybody to observe the measures. When people come into the country, we test them, those coming like from South Africa are tested, especially those showing some signs.
“The rest who are not showing any signs have their details taken and sent to [their respective district] directors of health and social services to monitor them within the 14 days self isolation period.”
From around mid-August, Malawi has enjoyed a relatively better period, registering no new cases as was the case on Saturday and Sunday. However, on Monday this week, six new cases were recorded, but with zero deaths.
In contrast, during the same period neighbouring Zambia registered a combined 81 cases, including a single death while Mozambique registered 232 cases plus five deaths.
The new cases recorded on Monday, according to an update by co-chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 John Phuka are imported infections and identified among 1100 Malawians returning from South Africa.
On Monday, he noted with concern that of all preventive measures, wearing of face masks appear to have gone down.
Said Phuka: “This is worrying as face masks prevent spread of droplets that spread when we talk, sneeze or cough. These droplets end up on nearby surfaces or on people and masks create a physical barrier that catches these droplets preventing them from spreading far and wide.”
Earlier, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo said countries where the numbers were going down, but schools reopened, have seen their numbers surging again; hence, the need for Malawians to be careful in handling the matter.
He said: “Yes, the numbers are indeed going down, which is good news, but just to say that we are not out of the woods yet.”
Malawi fully reopened schools and colleges in October after a partial opening in September. The schools and colleges were closed in March as a precautionary measure against further spread of coronavirus.
On April 2, Malawi registered its first three Covid-19 cases. Cumulatively, the country has recorded 6 009 cases including 185 deaths.