Two weeks ago, President Peter Mutharika declared a State of Disaster following the threat of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Following the announcement, there were those that applauded the President and others that felt the President’s decree was not done in good faith.
I believe that political biasness aside, it is the right decision. Perhaps, the best decision Mutharika has ever made since his ascent to power.
Currently, almost all of Malawi’s neighbouring countries have recorded cases of Covid-19 and have taken precautionary measures to prevent further spread of the disease.
Malawi is lucky that as of last week, the country had not recorded any single case of Covid-19. This should make every Malawian happy and pray that the status quo remains like this for the foreseeable future.
Malawi finds itself in quite a tricky situation in that the country has porous borders that are prone to people simply walking in and out without diligent verification and testing.
Apart from that, I strongly believe that the President did not widely consult other government departments and agencies so that there is synergy and synchronisation on how the country can move on while at the same time tackling the threat of coronavirus.
Take for instance, one of the measures highly recommended to stop the spread of coronavirus is by adequately and frequently washing hands with soap. As simple as this sounds, it is not that easy in a country such as Malawi where many people still have no access to potable water.
On top of that, the few that have access, the water is often rationed such that you have cases where some urban dwellers go for days without running water. All this does not augur well with the fight against coronavirus. One would think that before the decree, the President and indeed the entire government machinery had sat down with relevant stakeholders.
Think of a situation where water boards are told not to ration water and in other cases offer free water so that everyone has access to water that they can use to wash their hands.
I imagine a situation in which someone from Mujinge Village in Mzimba who has to walk at least one kilometre to find water. Can such a person’s priority be using that water just to wash hands? What has government done to ensure that at least a household has a bar of soap? Government has responsibility in times such as these to ensure that every other individual is provided for and protected.
Without proper sanitation it will be hard to contain Covid-19. Lockdown alone is not enough to stop the spread of the virus.
My own experience with those manning the Covid-19 Hotline left me with bad after taste. So, I haven’t been going to work because I have flu. When I called the hotline the person on the other end told me I need not worry since I haven’t travelled outside the country in the past month and I haven’t been in contact with anyone who had recently travelled. I was however, advised to go to the nearest clinic.
I was shocked. My understanding is that if you have symptoms, you do not have to go to the clinic because if it turns out that you test positive for coronavirus, you risk infecting more people. Rather, a health professional is supposed to visit you and take tests. Yes, Malawi could be preparing for Covid-19 but it looks like the preparations are not thorough.