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In Covid path

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KANDODO CHIPONDA (left)— All the new cases are locally transmitted

Back to square one.

Two years after, on April 2 2020, Malawi registered its first case of Covid, there seems to be no way out of the coronavirus trap, with cases being registered each passing day again.

So precarious is the situation that, by Tuesday this week, Malawi had recorded 24 new cases of Covid, up from zero some two months ago.

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As early as May 12 2022, World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa officials had warned that, with some countries such as Malawi getting thick into winter, cases would rise.

And, in line with such anticipation, Covid cases have been rising in Malawi.

By June 21 this year, Malawi had registered over 20 new Covid cases, 13 new recoveries and zero deaths.

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“All the new cases are locally transmitted; 15 in Lilongwe, three each in Blantyre and Karonga, one each in Mulanje, Chiradzulu and Chitipa,” Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said.

Cumulatively, Malawi has recorded 86,249 cases including 2,644 deaths, with the case fatality rate at 3.07 percent. Of these cases, 2,887 are imported infections and 83,362 are locally transmitted.

Cumulatively, she said, 82,979 cases have now recovered, with the recovery rate of 96.21 percent, while 290 were lost to follow-up.

“This brings the total number of active cases to 336. In the past 24 hours, there were three new admissions and one new discharge from the treatment units. 14 cases are currently admitted in our treatment units; 15 in Blantyre, three each in Lilongwe and Zomba,” Kandodo Chiponda indicated.

She indicated that 323 Covid tests were conducted. Of these, 171 tests were through RT-PCR test while the rest were through SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Diagnostic test. The positive cases out of the total number tested translates to a positivity rate of 7.43 percent and the weekly positivity rate (seven days moving average) is at 5.5 percent.

Cumulatively, 589,303 tests have been conducted in the country so far.

Ironically, according to Ministry of Health Deputy Director of Preventive Health Services responsible for Community Health, Doreen Ali, Malawi wanted to vaccinate 30 percent of the population for Covid by the end of this month, but the target is far from being met.

This is because, so far, 10.2 percent of the population has been vaccinated for Covid.

This means it is unlikely that Malawi will meet the 70 percent target it set for June next year.

“Misconceptions and myths surrounding Covid and vaccines themselves may be cited as some of the factors that have contributed to this,” she indicated.

But Malawi Red Cross Society Head of Health and Social Services, Dan Kapombosola, has not lost hope.

He said, if proper strategies are put in place, Malawi could be on the path to high vaccination and low coronavirus infection rates.

Ntchisi District is leading, in terms of coronavirus vaccination rates, at 37.2 percent.

Apart from the Central Region district, no administrative district comes anywhere near it, with Dowa, another district where the vaccination rate is high, standing at 18.3 percent.

According to Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director George Jobe, continued public sensitisation is key to stemming the tide of Covid infections in the country.

Jobe cited myths and misconceptions as some of the drawbacks to the Covid vaccination campaign in the country.

The development comes at a time WHO has indicated that the Omicron variant of Covid is exacerbating the situation, with Omicron sub-variant BA.2, sub-variant BA.4 and sub-variant BA.5 being blamed for the surge.

“Southern Africa is facing an upsurge in Covid cases for the third consecutive week as the winter season in the region approaches. The uptick has broken a two-month-long decline in overall infections recorded across the continent,” WHO said in a statement.

This came after the WHO sub-region recorded 46,271 cases in the week ending on May 8 2022, marking a 32 percent increase over the week before. The increase was attributed to a spike in South Africa, where weekly recorded cases quadrupled within three weeks.

The Rainbow Nation registered 376 deaths in those three weeks, twice as many compared with the previous three weeks.

However, despite the increases, cases of hospitalisation in South Africa remained low, with the number of patients admitted to healthcare service facilities at 20 percent of the late December 2021 peak.

The epicentre was Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, where rates of deaths in hospitals increased by between 90 and 100 percent.

Initially, apart from South Africa, eSwatini and Namibia were the countries that were said to be affected.

“This uptick in cases is an early warning sign which we are closely monitoring. Now is the time for countries to step up preparedness and ensure that they can mount an effective response in the event of a fresh pandemic wave,” said Dr Abdou Salam Gueye, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response at WHO Regional Office for Africa.

One only hopes that, when it comes to uptick of Covid cases, Malawi does not become the example that quickly comes to mind in WHO corridors.

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