Again, not if but when
Last week I saluted the Vice-Chancellor of the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) for her bold decision to stop the use of thin plastics on her campus. I did mention in the article that it is a shame that the Department of Environmental Affairs has not been enforcing the ban since the Supreme Court of Appeals effected it in July 2019.
I find it encouraging, therefore, that barely a week later on Thursday, the Department of Environmental Affairs shut down Qingdao Plastic Limited in Lilongwe, owned by some Chinese nationals, for continuing to manufacture thin plastics.
This is a commendable move and I urge the department to move in on the rest who are still producing these thin plastics. I know that the department officials know that some companies are defying the ban and still manufacturing these banned plastics. When you go to the market you still find thin plastics used to package different merchandise. Someone is producing these thin plastics and distributing them.
Last week, I discussed the coronavirus and the concerns I have over Malawi’s unpreparedness. I acknowledge some of the encouraging developments that have taken place in the past week such as the setup of the cabinet committee on the coronavirus and the establishment of a special team on the outbreak at the College of Medicine. These are right first steps but I am sorry to say that I do not believe they are enough.
I feel that while our health officials and all concerned parties seem to know quite a lot about this disease that is ravaging the world, not much information is trickling down to everyday people. Other than the garbage on social media, there is simply no information made available to the public in terms of how people can avoid and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
For this reason, today I will repeat my article from last week. This is what I wrote…
COVID-19 stopped being a disease that ravaged far off places such as Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and distant corners of Africa as just two-hour plane ride away from here to South Africa a positive case was confirmed.
This case of a 38-year old man who had returned from Italy with ten others was the first in Southern Africa, but looking at the spreading pattern of the virus, soon more cases will be confirmed in South Africa and then more countries in the region will catch it. The question is, are we prepared?
I know I run the risk of being accused of being a prophet of doom, but call me a realist as well. That someone will test positive to COVID-19 in Malawi should no longer be discussed as a matter of if but when. South Africa is a country we deal with a lot and brothers and sisters from there fly to Malawi all the time. Not to mention those who travel by road.
Like most Malawians, my biggest concern is our weak public health system. I am not sure if we have what it takes to stop the spread of a highly contagious virus such as COVID-19. Up to now, I have not seen any deliberate and comprehensive public awareness of the disease. You would have thought that by now prevention messages would be on all the radio stations and television.
Some people have rightly wondered if countries with some of the best public health systems such as Italy, Japan, and South Korea are struggling to contain this killer-virus’ rapid spread, does Malawi stand a chance considering that we also depend on those same countries for assistance in our health system?
I believe it is not too late now to flood the country with the right information about COVID-19 and how to prevent it. Our health system will not be able to stop this virus from spreading, but if people have usable information, they will protect themselves and be spared. Time to act is now
Marcus Muhariwa is a trained journalist and communications professional. He has a passion for writing on social issues.