Malawians across the country have started acting swiftly in a bid to prevent the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) that has so far killed and infected thousands of people worldwide.
A spot-check The Nation conducted yesterday showed how various shops and public and private hospitals, among others, are putting in place such preventive measures.
For instance, at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, visitors are no longer allowed to enter the wards during visiting hours.
When The Nation visited QECH around 12.45 yesterday, one could see unhappy faces of the visitors who sat on the hospital lawn and in corridors after being barred from entering the facility.
Only one person was allowed to pass through after being interrogated by guards at the entrance to the wards.
However, those who passed through could only deliver what they had brought through the window.
A notice at one of the entrances reads: “As part of infection prevention, no visitors will be allowed into the wards.”
In an interview, one of the visitors who travelled from Mpemba in Blantyre, Vanessa Sidney, expressed disappointment over the development.
She said: “We have travelled such a long distance but then we cannot see our relative. We know that it is because of the coronavirus but it is still disappointing to us.”
Another visitor from Bvumbwe in Thyolo, Stanley Bandawe also expressed disappointment, saying authorities should have thought of other ways of handling the issue.
“I am totally frustrated because I cannot come all the way and not be able to see my sister who is here sick. Maybe they should try another preventive measure but not banning us,” he said.
But in a written response, QECH director Samson Dolo said the arrangement was made by the hospital’s administration and that they will be revisiting the decision as events unfold.
He said: “We understand people want to see their loved ones but here is a virus that spreads like wildfire. Reducing overcrowding is one way of trying to stop it from coming. Visitors and guardians contribute significantly to overcrowding in the wards.”
Other private hospitals such as Masm Medi Clinic in Kanjedza, Mwaiwathu Private Hospital and Blantyre Adventist Hospital have water buckets and sanitisers outside their premises which visitors and patients have to use.
At Chichiri Shopping Mall, Shoprite and Game Stores have put the water buckets and sanitisers at their entrances.
While some people could be seen wearing face masks, some were seen moving around freely.
The situation was different, as of yesterday, among Asian-owned shops in both Blantyre and Limbe central business districts had water buckets and sanitisers at the entrance.
In some shops that did not have soap or sanitisers, shop attendants were seen wearing face masks.
Meanwhile, a spot-check at Mbuka and Katate CCAP churches under Nkhoma Synod in Lilongwe revealed they have devised a seating plan of four people on a pew that sits eight congregants.
Katate CCAP Church, located at Likuni, has since introduced a third worship service as one way of decongesting prayer meetings.
At Likuni Mission Hospital, Bwaila Hospital and Kamuzu Central Hospital visitors were barred from entering wards during lunch hour.
In an interview, Mzuzu Central Hospital director Frank Sinyiza confirmed that his administration has effected new measures.
But he said the challenge could only be in the paediatric wards where there is a high concentration of babies and guardians who, according to him, cannot be barred from nursing their children.
Said Sinyiza: “We have indeed introduced a number of measures which we developed in our planning meeting. At the moment we have imposed restrictions on a number of visitors.
“We will not allow visitors to go inside. There are a number of measures but our only worry is on the paediatric ward where we have an average of 100 patients.”
So far, schools have also taken precautionary measures, with most of them, including private institutions, closing by yesterday.
Malawi is yet to register a coronavirus case. As of yesterday, South Africa recorded the highest figure of over 240 cases in the southern Africa region while Malawi’s neighbours Zambia and Tanzania recording one case and two, respectively.