I have lived openly with HIV for 17 years. Here is what I know about viral infections: It has to get bitter before it gets better.
Granted, Covid-19 is not HIV. It spreads fast and results in high death rates witnessed globally.
It is time Malawi responded to Covid-19 more aggressively and effectively.
The recent elections caused some delays and errors, so it is time the new administration triggered a more robust national action plan to reduce new infections and deaths.
The recent gazetted guidelines are a great start, but some language needs redress. Malawi needs a more stringent and evidence-based coronavirus response.
As witnessed in many worst-hit countries, without this vigilance, many more will die.
As an ex-leader of the association of Malawians in Switzerland, I interacted with many citizens during the Swiss national lockdown, which was no walk in the park.
However, lockdowns help countries isolate cases, learn more about its spread and enable public health experts gauge best preventative measures for all.
No one wants to be under a tyranny, not even for preserving one’s health. Many Malawians live hand-to-mouth and failure to plan for their well-being is poor governance.
When the High Court granted an injunction against a nationwide lockdown, this did not cancel out the need for a national lockdown to preserve public health.
The government should have shown concern for vulnerable Malawians for the lockdown to achieve the desired ends.
All countries that have contained Covid-19 partly benefitted from lockdowns and the use of masks and other preventive tools.
In Africa, Rwanda and Uganda , with firm lockdowns, have confirmed fewer infections and deaths despite recording Covid-19 cases earlier than Malawi.
If the government is guided by public health expertise, why did it suddenly relax the ban on religious gatherings of over 10 to 100?
Malawi will soon suffer for this—for religious gatherings involve huge inter-generational mixes and crowded pews, with lots of singing and dancing that accelerate Covid-19 transmission.
A reported rise in teen pregnancies linked to coronavirus-related school closures is worrying, yet it would not be prudent to fully reopen school now. Local transmission remains high.
However, if large religious gatherings continue, it is time we considered reopening schools in phases considering the plight of young women and the mental health of the youth. Young Malawians are safer in schools.
Rather than just giving and enforcing orders, the government must also adhere to its own rules.
Innovation in education will be key to our recovery.
Business operators need clearer guidelines. Apart from making masks mandatory in public spaces, consumers need more contactless or cashless modes of payment and business transactions.
Support local farmers in ensuring more hygienic methods in the supply chain.
There is a need for more incentives and financial support to businesses to keep workplaces coronavirus-free.
Invest more in contact tracing, including via technological game changers, as this virus targets middle-aged, income-producing bits of our society.
The country has numerous challenges, including HIV, tuberculosis, unemployment, corruption, vulnerable populations and poor rural infrastructure.
As it is clear that Covid-19 is with us for some time, we should learn to handle everything at once to safeguard the gains made since independence.
Each life lost means many more problems added to our national to-do list. That is a bitter pill to swallow. n