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Covid falsehoods: Villagers assault medical officials

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By Tiyese Monjeza 

There was commotion in Mkwate Village, under Senior Chief Malemia, in Zomba, as angry villagers stoned healthcare workers that were assigned to disinfect the body of a person that had succumbed to Covid. The incident happened at around 4pm on Sunday and involved a team of six medical officials from Naisi Health Centre, which is one of Zomba District Health Office (DHO)’s outstations.

In the melee, one Health Service Assistant (HSA) was stoned and sustained a deep cut on the head and left arm, according to Zomba Police Officer-in-Charge Glinton Mitayi.

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Police Officials have since urged healthcare professionals to be informing law enforcers when they want to disinfect bodies to avoid such incidents.

One of the attacked HSAs, Robin Chikaphonya, said they were insulted and mocked for close to one hour when they want to disinfect the body of person who succumbed to Covid in the village. He said the atmosphere became tense when healthcare personnel carried the coffin containing the body to a vehicle hired to ferry the deceased to his home village in Blantyre for burial.

“The villagers started stoning and beating us up. They were accusing us of receiving hefty allowances when disinfecting dead bodies. They say we always celebrate when one dies of Covid. The driver managed to whisk us away but, unfortunately, three of our colleagues did not manage to get into the car and had to run on foot for their dear lives,’ Chikaphonya said.

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IN PAIN— Chikaphonya (left) and before being taken to the hospital—Picture by Tiyese Monjeza

Chikaphonya was rushed to Naisi Health Centre for medical attention. Malemia described the incident as shocking.

“This is shameful and I will summon subordinate chiefs over the matter,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mitayi has appealed to health officials in the district to be seeking police’s help when conducting such exercises.

He added that law enforcers were gathering information on the incident and would arrest culprits in due course. Zomba DHO spokesperson Arnold Mndalira said they would intensify sensitisation campaigns in collaboration with traditional and church leaders to avoid cases of conflict.

“Following the incident, we will be meeting with chiefs within the week to request them to help us sensitise the communities and clear out some misconceptions related to Covid deaths,” Mndalira said.

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