Ministry of Health (MoH) says it is developing laboratory capacity to enable in-country diagnosis of the deadly coronavirus (COVD-19) outbreak.
Addressing the media on coronavirus orientation in Blantyre yesterday, head of epidemiology and surveillance at MoH’s Public Health Institute of Malawi Dr Annie Chauma Mwale emphasised that Malawi has not registered any suspected case but that the laboratory is part of Malawi preparedness measures.
She said the country has no laboratory to test for the coronavirus and in the event that a suspected case was spotted, samples would have to be sent to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases [NICD] in South Africa or any other Would Health Organisation certified centres on the continent for testing.
Said Chauma Mwale: “Test results would ordinarily take about two days, but Malawi has not had to send any samples as we have had no suspected case yet.”
The ministry has since advised people to be alert and apply preventive measures such as washing hands with soap frequently for 20 seconds, avoiding contact with anyone coughing or sneezing and seeing a doctor for fever or flu-like symptoms to prevent the spread of the respiratory virus.
Said Chauma-Mwale: “Coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets. Patients with coronavirus disease have symptoms of cough, trouble breathing, fatigue, sore throat, fever and body pains. Severe cases present as pneumonia in both lungs and if not adequately managed, they may lead to death.”
So far, 120 travellers from China–including Malawians, Chinese and Zimbabweans–have been put under surveillance and only 60 of those are currently on follow up.
Said Chauma Mwale: “During the 14-day surveillance period, also known as self-quarantine, individuals are required to stay home and a health personnel visits them daily to monitor their condition.
“Those in self-quarantine are provided with protective gear to protect their families from contracting the virus. The aim is to minimise contact with the public and failure to adhere to it will enforce facility quarantine.”
She said the ministry has put in place various infection prevention control measures such as creating quarantine facilities in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Dedza, Mzuzu, Karonga, Mwanza and Mangochi, screening at points of entry, collaborating with the Chinese Embassy and updating drug and supplies stocks.
On his part, MoH acting deputy director of preventative health services Mavuto Thomas called on the media to verify information and counter any fake news to avoid creating panic on the coronavirus situation.
As of yesterday, Chauma Mwale said there were 79 331 recorded cases of coronavirus globally, with 77 262 in China while the rest are spread across 29 countries. Egypt is the only African country that has had a reported case.