Malawi has registered a new Covid-19 case in Blantyre, which brings the number of infected people to four just in two days, a Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 announced on Saturday.
The committee added that government needs over K100 billion to effectively respond to the global pandemic, a development that has prompted the committee to ask government to prioritise Covid-19 fight to the presidential fresh elections.
Chairperson of the committee, who is also Minister of Health, Jappie Mhango told a news conference in Lilongwe on Saturday that the new case in Blantyre is currently on quarantine and under serious medical supervision.
“This patient recently travelled to the UK [United Kingdom] and was in self-quarantine. Tests were done on Saturday at the College of Medicine laboratory where it was confirmed that the results are positive,” said Mhango without revealing the location and age of the patient, to avoid stigma.
President Peter Mutharika announced the first three cases, which are from one household in Lilongwe’s Area 9.
Malawi was among few countries that had not registered a single case until Thursday this week.
Mhango said to effectively deal with Covid-19 Malawi needs over K100 billion, saying the initially announced K15 billion was only for one cluster of health as there are more clusters in the national response plan.
He said so far Treasury has disbursed K2.4 billion—half of which has been allocated to local councils.
While the minister could not explicitly state the expenditure plan of the proposed K100 billion, he indicated that part of the expenditure in the health cluster will include recruitment of 3 000 health workers across cadres to beef up the over-strained health workforce as well as procuring 5 000 extra- testing kits.
Commenting on the K100 billion budget, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe said government ought to come out clearly on its expenditure plan.
He said while the proposed amount may be ideal, government must explain to taxpayers to appreciate the expenditure.
Jobe also faulted the Cabinet committee for making some decisions unilaterally without engaging relevant stakeholders.
“The need to solicit views wide and far. They must not be making decisions without consulting. They talked about K15 billion being set aside and now K100 billion—they need to explain and have stakeholders give their views,” he said, further calling on Capital Hill to act with speed to recruit new health personnel.
Looking at the proposed budget in relation to fiscal pressure facing Malawi, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Dan Namarika said government should priortise Covid-19 over elections expenditure.
Namarika said the right to life must reign supreme, adding that the on-going voters registration taking place in some parts of the country threatens efforts to contain the Covid-19 as such an exercise defies social distancing, a recommended precautionary measure.
Namarika also said he submitted a report to the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) where among other issues has expressed reservations with voter registration in preparation for the Constitutional Court ordered fresh presidential elections.
“There is a requirement that all people coming into Malawi from countries that all have confirmed cases of coronavirus should go into 14-day self-quarantine or even institutional quarantine. These people will therefore, not be available to participate in other communal programmes such as voter registration let alone participate on the elections themselves. These people will thereby be denied their other right,” reads the letter to CMD director Kizito Tenthani dated March 31 2020.
In the letter, Namarika says Malawi may experience high number of sick people and deaths due to Covid-19 as indicated in the preliminary modelling results.
He added: “Both coronavirus and elections require intense logistical support in form of vehicles and other services. Therefore, having elections against a disease that is pandemic on the global space and a threat to our own country would be wise of Malawi as a country”
Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is currently conducting voter registration in some districts across the country—Karonga, Chitipa, Salima , Dedza, Ntcheu, Blantyre, Chikwawa and Nsanje—starting from on Saturday, April 4 to April 17 2020.
From our random checks in some districts where registration is taking place, the indication is that registration has started on a low note, largely for lack of proper civic education, according to one MEC official deployed in the Northern Region. The official said they are observing social distance.
But Namarika contended that there are over 5 000 people under surveillance who may easily come into contact with others during voter registration, thereby aggravating the situation.
But in a written response MEC publicist Sangwani Mwafulirwa said MEC staff have been trained to enforce social distance; hence no cause for worry.
Following the confirmation of a new infection, Malawi is among nine other African countries that have registered new Covid-19 cases as of on Saturday afternoon. Morocco had the highest number of new infections after authorities there confirmed 67 positive Covid-19 tests.
Senegal recorded the second highest number of cases, at 17, followed by Kenya and Ethiopia who registered four and three cases respectively. There was also one new infection each in Togo, Chad, Cape Verde and Djibouti.
Kenyan media reports indicated that two of the four people whose cases were confirmed on Saturday had passed through Malawi.
Globally, there were at least 21 714 new infections, with most of the new cases having been identified in Europe and Asia. Spain had the highest number of new infections with 124 736, followed by UK (3 735), Iran (2 560) and Belgium (1 161).