Health experts have rebuked politicians for disregarding coronavirus (Covid-19) precautionary measures during their campaign rallies, saying they are threatening people’s lives at the time the pandemic is reaching its peak in the country.
The health experts suggest that if they want to continue with rallies ahead of the July 2 fresh presidential election, the politicians should distribute masks to attendees at the rallies, bar those above 60 years and those with chronic illnesses from attending and involve health personnel within rally areas.
Influential politicians from both Democratic Progressing Party (DPP) and United Democratic Front (UDF) alliance and Tonse Alliance comprising UTM Party, Malawi Congress Party and seven other parties are holding campaign rallies whose attendance is exceeding the prescribed 100. There is also no observance of social distancing at the rallies.
In an interview yesterday, epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala, who is also a member of the Society of Medical Doctors, said politicians should sober up, appreciate that Covid-19 is real and that Malawi can only stop it by stopping its spread.
He said the 72 cases recorded to date should not be looked at as an end because there are other people who entered Malawi, but have not gone for testing. Besides, he said there are other contacts for those with the virus who are yet to be traced, meaning that many more could have the pandemic.
Said Divala: “So, politicians should realise that by bringing people in large crowds they are essentially propagating the spread of the disease which has no vaccine or treatment. So, if they get this disease, they die.
“Politicians are putting themselves and the people they are gathering at risk of death. That should quickly sink in and must come together. They may realise that maybe the rallies should stop and find an alternative way of campaigning.”
He said it is also “outrageous” that some members of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 are also on the ground campaigning instead of leading the country in dealing with the pendemic.
Said Divala: “People at the top of Covid-19 management should be role models. If they don’t see any alternative to rallies, they should be exemplary by putting on masks and washing hands.
“They should talk about wearing masks and ensure that all attendees have been given party branded masks, it’s actually a good campaign tool.”
On his part, health rights activist Maziko Matemba suggested that politicians should involve health workers in areas where they plan to hold rallies so that they help in guiding people on the pandemic.
He said: “Crowd management requires many people, but politicians wouldn’t do that themselves. If they are going to a rally, let them engage health personnel in those areas, and discuss how to prevent the spread of Covid 19.
“The virus is peaking and people need to know this. The middle level politicians who normally go flat-out, must know this, they must be the ones engaging health personnel.”
Minister of Health Jappie Mhango said recent surge in Covid-19 confirmed cases is indication that the virus is rising and that every Malawian should shoulder the responsibility of stopping its further spread.
He said: “Our neighbours like Zambia and Tanzania have difficult time in containing the pandemic. We are still below 100, but at the pace we are moving, we could be hitting 100 not long from now,” he said.
Malawi reported its first case of Covid-19 on April 2. To date, the country has 72 cases, including three deaths.