Results of the Covid-19 specimens tested at a South African laboratory have confirmed existence of the Indian variant (Delta) and South African variant (Beta) in the country.
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda, who also co-chairs the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, confirmed the situation during a daily Covid-19 update last evening.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified four variants of concern, namely Alpha or B.1.1.7 first identified in the United Kingdom, Beta or B1.351 first identified in South Africa, Gamma or P1 first identified in Brazil and Delta or B.1617.2 first identified in India.
Speaking during the daily briefing, Chiponda said Malawi had been collecting samples and sent 739 to South Africa for genetic sequencing since January 2021.
She said: “The first lot included samples from October 2020 to February 2021. Among these, the most common was the Beta variant. The second lot of 539 samples is still being analysed in South Africa.
“From this second lot, we have results for 84 samples. The results show that 14 samples have the Delta variant and 56 had the Beta variant. All the 14 of the Delta variants are from the Salima Sugar Factory and [the patients] have since recovered. We are expecting more results on the remaining samples.”
The minister assured that the cases whose samples were collected were appropriately isolated to ensure the minimal spread of the virus.
As a control measure, Chiponda said government has intensified screening at ports of entry and mandatory quarantine for those travelling from the risky countries.
In an interview, epidemiologist Titus Divala hoped that the Salima outbreak was controlled and that ports of entry are being managed carefully considering that the Delta variant is highly transmissible.
He said: “Main message for prevention remains vaccine, mask use, physical distancing and frequent hand washing with soap.”
On April 26, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 banned all travellers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Brazil, as a precautionary measure against the third wave.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health will today start administering the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a Covid-19 status update on Sunday evening, Chiponda said those that registered digitally will
receive an SMS indicating the date to receive the second dose and a registration number to present at the vaccination site.
She said those who will not receive the SMS will still be helped accordingly. The minister said administration of the second dose will run concurrently with that of the first jab.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo is on record as having said those who received the first dose were not restricted to get their second dose at the centre they got the first one.
Information from Public Health Institute of Malawi shows that uptake for the vaccine has for the first time increased by 1.8 percent