The family of Rafik Abbu whose two members and a houseboy’s wife were Thursday confirmed positive of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) yesterday explained the ordeal leading to their diagnosis which has cast a huge shadow of doubt on the accuracy of the Covid-19 tests being carried out in the country.
In an interview at his Area 9 residence in Lilongwe yesterday, Abbu, who is the proprietor of Master Construction Company, revealed that it had to take two tests to confirm the positive test.
Abbu said 12 people, including maids, were living in his compound at the time of the diagnosis and that all of them are currently in isolation in the compound.
Abbu said his wife, son and the wife of his houseboy are the ones who tested positive Thursday.
“Since my wife, my son and my houseboy’s wife tested positive yesterday, we have been indoors and we are following all instructions by the Community Health Sciences Unit (CHSU). All along, my wife and I have been on quarantine. When this was happening, we had already been in self-isolation for 17 days,” Abbu said.
He said the family has also been in close contact with my family member who was tested positive and was quarantined for 14 days in Australian.
Abbu said the three patients are on their way to recovery and they are feeling much better.
Where did they get the virus?
Abbu said it all started recently when the couple visited India for medical attention where they returned to Malawi on March 8 2020.
He said the couple was instructed by health officials at Kamuzu International Airport to go under self-isolation for 14 days considering that India is among Covid-19 hotspots.
“It was on March 11 that I developed a few symptoms such as weakness/fatigue and loss of taste and smell. On March 14, my wife developed similar symptoms, except for the loss of taste and smell. I immediately called the Covid-19 team from CHSU.
“The team visited my home to assess the situation. I insisted that the team should do a test on my wife. Unfortunately, the team decided not to carry out any Covid-19 tests as our symptoms did not reflect the typical symptoms of Covid-19 and did not meet their medical requirements,” Abbu said.
He said, after a week of being in isolation, they received the news that his aunt had paid the family a visit from Australia and tested positive for Covid-19 on her return in Australia.
“I requested a report from Australia to confirm the positive test result and with a lot of persuasion, I urged the Covid-19 team to test my wife. The test was eventually done after a few days on March 22.
“The results came out on March 24 and the test was negative. At this point, I had fully recovered and my wife was feeling better though not completely back to normal,” Abbu said.
On March 31, Abbu said the Covid-19 team from CHSU contacted him again requesting to conduct another test on his wife who at tha time had fully recovered.
He said the team also took samples from family members, including housekeepers and their families who reside in their compound.
Abbu said, when the results came out, they confirmed that the three people were diagnosed positive.
What doctors say?
Society of Medical Doctors president Amos Nyaka said they want suspected cases who were tested before and came out negative to be retested.
Nyaka said so far over 300 cases have tested negative.
He observed that chances could be that the old test kit may have been defective.
Who did cases meet?
According to Abbu, since the couple returned from India, it has been in isolation but has been meeting family members, workers and the health officials.
He brushed aside rumours that the maid lives in the populous Mtandire Township saying the maid resides within the compound.
“Since the wife of the maid tested positive, we have put her in the guest wing. She is being been taken care of just like anyone,” Abbu said.
Malawi Equity Health Network Executive Director George Jobe said his organisation will be following up the matter for finer details.
For instance, Jobe said they would be need for details regarding when and how many family members travelled into the country and what were the arrangements made.
“Of course, we have noted that the statement which was made by the State President is kind of broad because it was aimed at giving precise information very quickly so that people will not miss what has been said.
“What we are doing is to liaise with the Ministry of Health so that we can get finer details and such finer details which could help Malawi in its response and also answer some of the questions that are coming from the public,” Jobe said.
Lilongwe Asian Business Community Chairperson Manzoor Bheda said it is unfortunate that Malawi has registered first cases of Covid-19.
“As a community, we have always stood with the nation on every occasion of difficulty and calamity,” Bheda said.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango could not indicate how many suspected cases have tested negative so far.
Malawi Thursday became the latest country to record positive cases of Covid-19 with three victims.
President Peter Mutharika, who announced the news, said the three are a 61-year-old woman who had travelled to India where she got the virus.
The others are her relative and a domestic worker for the woman.
Mutharika urged Malawians not to panic but to be careful.
“As we take every precaution, we must maintain our hope because, according to health experts, 97 percent of patients infected by the coronavirus get well after medical intervention.
“In the absence of the vaccine and off-the-counter treatment, raising awareness of the risk factors for the coronavirus infection and protective measures individuals can take is the only way to reduce human infection and death,” he said.