Data from the Malawi Weekly Epidemiological Report show a downward trend in the number of registered Covid-19 cases, but an upward trend in the number of deaths and hospital admissions.
Health experts have said the trend is expected, especially after government opened up some institutions which led some people to relax the measures, but added that the increase in deaths and admissions could mean that many of those contracting the virus now have underlying health problems.
Data for the week beginning March 15 to 21 (Week 11) show that the country registered 14 deaths and 25 admissions while for the week beginning March 22 to 28 (Week 12), the number of deaths shot by 14 percent to 16 and admissions rose by 20 percent to 30.
In terms of new cases, only 235 were reported in week 12, representing a 41.1 percent decrease compared to 399 new cases reported in Week 11.
Reads the report: “In the past week, 30 cases were hospitalised, representing a 20 percent increase compared to Epidemiology week 11.
“Cumulatively 1 941 cases have been admitted since the first cases were registered on 2 April 2020.
“Additional 16 Covid-19 deaths were reported since the last report. Cumulatively, 1 114 deaths have been reported, and the overall case-fatality ratio remains at 3.3 percent [1 114/33 505].”
Malawi’s case fatality rate remains high at 3.3 percent and the worst is registered in Chitipa at nine percent where 22 people have died out of 245 cases while Salima has the lowest at 1.1 percent with nine deaths from 799 cases.
It adds: “The highest number of all cases to date are in the 30-to-39-years [22.9 percent] followed by 20-to-29-years [22.6percent] and 40-to-49- years [17.1 percent] age groups.”
In an interview yesterday, Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi said the varying of cumulative cases and admissions and deaths could mainly reflect that mainly those getting the virus could be people with underlying health conditions (comorbidities).
He said the data now gives epidemiologists a chance to review the cases received, so that they make informed decisions on the vaccines, and other responses.
Said Mithi: “It could mean that even though few people are getting the disease or that those getting it are people that are at high risk and are admitted. Thus, the deaths also follow.
“That is not completely a strange observation. It can happen. It just tells the story as to who is getting the disease.
“From the epidemiological point of view, it’s really interesting because it can guide us as to where we can intervene especially as we have the vaccine
.” now. We need to target our vaccine delivery, otherwise these are concerning figures and calls for us to re-examine data and properly advise as to what should be done next
On his part, United Kingdom-based Malawian epidemiologist Titus Divala said the country should expect more hospitalisation cases and deaths after people relaxed their preventive behaviour following government’s decision to open up some institutions.
He said: “What we should bear in mind is that the positivity rate has struggled to decline. After 8 percent, we have struggled to go down, this may in part be because everyone relaxed when the government declared that schools and Parliament can open, but also that by-elections should take place.”
Earlier, experts decried low investment in the country’s health system and expressed fear that Malawi cannot ably handle any new wave of Covid-19 given the current status of health infrastructure.
The experts propose improvements in infrastructure, personnel and equipment. They said the situation was exposed in the management of the current second wave through little attention to other ailments as human resource could not manage.
The World Health Organisation warned countries, including Malawi, against relaxing implementation of measures aimed at controlling further spread of Covid-19 in the face of vaccines, saying doing so may trigger a new and more catastrophic wave of the pandemic.
Between April 2 2020 when the pandemic’s first cases were reported and December 31 2020, Covid-19 killed 189 people or an average of 21 people monthly. But during the second wave from January 1 2021 to date, about 925 people have died of Covid-19.