Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday pressed government to come up with clear mechanisms on coronavirus preparedness, saying the current situation does not portray that the country is prepared.
Responding to a ministerial statement on the virus, the legislators expressed worry that there is no proper budget to contain the virus, no trained personnel or quarantine facilities, among other things.
They further asked if it was proper for government to institute a ban on travelling to and from China until the situation improves.
But Minister of Health Jappie Mhango said they are monitoring the situation which has not yet reached levels to warrant a ban.
The coronavirus outbreak, which begun in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China last December, is rapidly evolving and has now spread to almost all provinces in China and 24 other countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and America. The major outbreak is still in China. There are no cases yet in Africa.
A total of 28 276 laboratory confirmed cases have so far been reported globally, of these cases, 28 060 (99 percent) have been reported in China with 565 deaths.
Kasungu South legislator Simplex Chithyola said he was not sure if what government was saying was true as there are no facilities. He said government was not coming out clearly on where the facilities were.
“The facilities that we have in the country don’t portray we are prepared, where are they and how protected are we?” he said.
Rumphi East MP, Kamlepo Kalua asked if government has set aside a budget for the virus, to which the minister said there was a considerable amount.
While appreciating government’s efforts as presented by the Mhango, Nkhata Bay South East legislator Noah Chimpeni told the minister to explain what he meant by “government is trying as much as possible”.
He said: “What do you really mean by saying trying as much as possible to protect people, why can’t you just come out clearly to say you have banned travel or not?”
In his statement, Mhango said government through his ministry is doing everything possible to ensure that coronavirus does not affect the country.
“As I said before, no case of coronavirus has so far been detected in Malawi. In the event that it is detected, my ministry is ready to manage the situation. We will continue working with the World Health Organisation to monitor the outbreak in China and other countries and will regularly update the general public accordingly,” he said.
Mhango added that his ministry has been convening Health Cluster meetings every week to discuss how to prepare and respond to a possible coronavirus outbreak, where they have developed a Preparedness Plan, among others. He said: “In collaboration with the Chinese Embassy in Malawi, the ministry is advising Malawians to, as much as possible, avoid travelling to China until the outbreak is controlled. The Chinese Embassy in Malawi is advising its nationals in China not to travel to Malawi until the outbreak is controlled.”