As the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 meets today to review preventive measures following an increase in new cases, experts have urged the committee to not only tighten measures but also ensure their enforcement.
In an interview yesterday, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma said following the increase in new cases, they are meeting to decide whether to tighten the Covid-19 protocols.
He said they will be looking at a few parameters, including the positivity rate which is currently around 7.3 percent, up from 3.4 percent last week.
Said Chalamira Nkhoma: “We have noticed the increase in cases, including imported ones from neighbouring countries. We are aware that the African region is experiencing an increase, so we will be looking at certain parameters to decide whether we need to change any of these measures.
“The parameters we are looking at are positivity rate, the number of people that are getting more sick and requiring admission, those who are dying from the pandemic and the capacity of our health service to handle increased numbers, particularly if they have to be admitted. We need to put all these together.”
Assessment reports by the Medical Council of Malawi, Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as The Nation’s own investigation reveal critical shortages of equipment, essential drugs, treatment centres and personnel.
In a separate interview, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences epidemiology and public health professor Adamson Muula said as the task force meets today, the team needs to address, among others, how the country will achieve herd immunity due to the low influx of vaccines.
He said: “From the World Bank money, we are told that only eight percent of the population will be targeted, but you know we need to achieve herd immunity which is 60 percent. So, how do we achieve that? What is the financial contribution from Malawi on that?
“The committee also needs to ensure that the protocols that we have are enforced. We have seen even politicians deliberately defying the rules, how do we deal with that? How do you tell people to wear masks when leaders are behaving differently?”
On his part, epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala said the committee needs to put strong measures in place to ensure that all individuals exempted from the current restrictions adhere to their quarantine and isolation.
National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives in Malawi (Nonm) president Shouts Simeza suggested that the committee should reintroduce a soft lockdown as was the case previously.
The Nonm president also urged the task force to ensure that the health system is equipped with necessary materials such as personal protective equipment and other life-saving equipment.
Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe of the emphasised on the need to tighten security, especially along land borders targeting those coming from countries that are hard-hit by the third wave of the pandemic such as South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
However, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence, whose institution took to court the immediate-past Democratic Progressive Party government for declaring a lockdown, said the current measures are adequate, but require enforcement.
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 on April 20 2021 announced amended preventive measures, including restricting indoor meetings to a maximum of 100 people and 250 for outdoors meetings as well as strict enforcement of proper use of masks, ensuring physical distancing of at least one metre apart and washing hands at all times.
Trapence said if government ensures that everyone is following the preventive protocols, the situation should be contained.
He said: “We have the measures yes, but who is following them? What we need is simply enforcement of rules. Everybody must follow them.”
But while acknowledging that people have relaxed on the preventive measures, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo said enforcement should not be left to health workers and the police alone, but should be everyone’s responsibility.
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda, who is also Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson, has since warned of drastic measures ahead if people do not adhere to the preventive measures.
“This is a worrisome development as it can lead to rapid transmission of the cases in our country.
“To effectively reduce and stop Covid-19 from spreading, there is a need for collective efforts to contain the pandemic by following all the preventive and containment measures,” she said.
In the last seven days (14-21 June), the positivity rate has moved by 3.9 percent from 3.4 to 7.4 percent, admissions are now at 27 from 12 cases (225 percent increase), 12 deaths have been registered while a total of 408 cases have been recorded.