Ministry of Health has justified the free passage of 150 Malawi passport holders and other nationals who arrived through Kamuzu International Airport on Sunday but were not subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine in line with coronavirus restrictions.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo said the travellers, who used a chartered plane, had their samples collected at KIA while some of them had undergone tests 48 hours earlier.
He said: “For the mild and asymptomatic individuals, we offer institutional quarantine when home conditions are not suitable. All of them are linked to the DHSS [district health and scial services offices] and district environmental health officer of their final destination district.”
Mwansambo’s explanation followed concerns by eye-witnesses at KIA who confided that they felt it was out of order to let the travellers into the community without quarantine.
The witnesses said the passengers were subjected to coronavirus tests and that they would know their status after two days.
The arrangement is in sharp contrast to the handling of some returning nationals from South Africa and other countries who were put under quarantine at Nalikule Teacher Training College in Lilongwe and Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The witnesses said the passengers included Malawians studying in India, who were stuck by the lockdown in that country and businesspersons. They were seen being checked for fever and asked to go into self-isolation.
One of the witnesses, who was welcoming a family member on the flight, said the passengers were reportedly tested for Covid-19 in India on departure but said he was shocked to see all passengers allowed to go home.
Said the witness: “The question is how do they control the spread if they are allowing people they are not sure have the virus or not in the society?”
India has 2 217 645 confirmed Covid-19 cases and is second to the United States of America as the worst hit countries in the world.
Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera confirmed the arrival of the chartered plane, but referred the matter to Ministry of Health.
He said: “It was coordinated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a lockdown in India. They take samples at the airport. What we require on our side is that the passengers declare where they will be so that if the Ministry of Health later wants them, they can trace them?”
Other countries have, however, handled similar evacuations differently. For instance, in March this year the South African military evacuated some 151 South Africans from China, then the epicentre of the pandemic.
The South African rescue mission comprised a multi-disciplinary medical team that first flew to Wuhan, China to ensure pre- and in-flight screening and medical care and to find out out if any of the South Africans did not meet the medical screening requirements.