It was obvious that Malawi would not escape the spread of coronavirus when neighbouring and other African countries were getting infected. It was a matter of time. When President Peter Mutharika appointed a cabinet committee on Covid-19 to deal with the impending pandemic, many expected that the committee would engage in high gear and come up with a package of measures to prepare for the disease. But nothing of that sort happened.
Perhaps the committee was too comfortable with the fact no single case of covid-19 was registered in the country. Even when President Mutharika announced the closure of education institutions on 19 March the country was far from being prepared.
It is only the last week that the committee has been seen doing some frantic work after the country initially recorded three covid-19 cases, ( we are now at nine), among of whom died. Now that we know that the virus is here, many people are panicking because they do not know who has it. This fear is justified. There are only three testing centres, set up late as expected, and confined to the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu).
The committee should move with speed and set up more centres in other parts of the country such as Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba, Mchinji, Dedza, Ntcheu, Mwanza, Nsanje, Mangochi, Phalombe etc. Certainly, three centres are far inadequate to serve a large population. Why has the committee delayed to do this? It had all the time to prepare.
The biggest disappointment has been government’s failure to impose mandatory quarantine for all people entering the country [whether foreigners or Malawians] from countries that have the coronavirus. The option of self-quarantine does not work because it’s not guarantee that people will stay at home. Such an arrangement requires to put in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance. But is not possible to monitor thousands of people scattered throughout the country.
Since everyone is aware that Covid-19 is an imported disease, government should have serious by quarantining everyone entering the country to nip the virus in the bud. Several places in all the regions should have been identified where people should be quarantined and observed for 14 days if they are virus free. While it is appreciated that this was going to be expensive, it was worth doing it. Now government is running around looking for people who entered the country in March and April so that they are tested for the virus. Really? Where are you going to find them?
We are told that as many as 3000 people entered the country through uncharted routes. Who counted these people? And who saw them? The truth of the matter is that these people came by air from China, India, UK, USA, South Africa etc and some of them by bus from Zimbabwe and South Africa. Government failed to do its work. These people are now a threat to their families, friends and those they come into contact with. No one is safe. Although a number of measures have been put in place to stem the killer virus, it is still a challenge for the rural dwellers and those living in informal settlements.
It is equally surprising that our borders were still open as recent as 9 April to passenger transport. This shows lack of seriousness.
What next? More testing centres should be opened up for people to know their status. And the cabinet committee should desist from issuing conflicting messages and should make decisions within the law.
One can only hope that everyone will follow health tips churned out in various media outlets and platforms. And pray that God protect us. President Mutharika should also inform the nation when the state of disaster will come to an end.
He should not keep the country in the dark. We need a time frame like what other countries have done.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :