Malawi has recorded 18 more cases of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), taking the total number of confirmed cases to 100 since the first three cases were recorded on April 2 2020. Four have died so far.
Of the 101 cases, 52 are imported mainly from Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with 45 cases being registered through local transmission.
Announcing the update during a press briefing at Mzuzu Central Hospital on Monday, Minister of Health Jappie Mhango said 15 of the cases involve returnees from Zimbabwe, who came into the country through Mwanza Border Post on May 24.
The minister said the other two cases include a man, 26, from Mwakyusa Village under Traditional Authority (T/A) Mwakaboko in Karonga who frequently travels to Tanzania and spends time at Songwe Border Post and another man, 34, from group village head Chapinga, T/A Mlolo in Nsanje, who returned from South Africa on May 14 through Mwanza Border Post.
Said Mhango: “The 15 patients arrived in the country on 24th May through Mwanza Border. As part of the Ministry of Health initiative to screen and test travellers, samples were taken and tested at our laboratories in Blantyre and the results came out positive.
“Among the 15, three are truck drivers and 12 are returnees. The 12 are among 90 returnees who were repatriated from Zimbabwe with the help of Malawi Government and International Organisation for Migration [IOM]. Out of 90 samples, 12 came out positive and 26 are pending.”
He said all the 15 patients will be quarantined at Kameza Isolation Centre in Blantyre and health experts are also assessing the situation of the Karonga patient so that he is transferred to an institutional quarantine at Karonga District Hospital.
In an interview yesterday, Presidential Task-force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Professor John Phuka said Malawi’s preparedness in dealing with the pandemic is an ongoing process.
He described the capacity to test at Mwanza Border Post as a big step in the fight against Covid-19, saying it ensures that all returnees are tested and their status known before proceeding to their respective homes.
Said Phuka: “We had planned that all returnees must go on institutional quarantine, but you may notice that the numbers are huge.
“We have so many buses at the border, and that means too many people. So, we are encouraging them not to use public transport and when they get home, they are counselled so that they remain indoors to protect themselves and the people they find.”
On his part, epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala, who is also a member of the Society of Medical Doctors, stressed the need to test all travellers entering the country, saying even those that test negative must be re-tested after 14 days.
“The country, as a basic principle, cannot deny entry of its citizens. I am glad that the Ministry of Health is able to screen and test them for Covid-19.
“I suggest that all borders should have capacity to screen and test travellers entering the country. Another thing is that even those who test negative on entry must still be put on self quarantine for 14 days and be tested again after that period.”
Earlier, Divala, said the virus is slowly reaching its peak in Malawi; hence, the need for the country to be more careful, particularly with the ongoing campaign rallies.
Besides 15 cases whose districts of origin are not yet known, cumulatively, Lilongwe has recorded the highest cases at 31, Blantyre has 24, Thyolo has 10, Nkhata Bay has five, Mzuzu is at four while Zomba and Karonga have two cases each.
Nkhotakota, Chikwawa, Mangochi, Ntcheu, Mulanje, Nsanje and Phalombe have one case each.
On March 20, Covid-19 was declared a National Disaster in Malawi and April 2, the first three cases were registered.
On May 6, President Peter Mutharika appointed a Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 that is co-chaired by Phuka of the College of Medicine and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha.