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‘Malawi has no Omicron case’

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By Rebecca Chimjeka

Malawi is yet to detect traces of Omicron variant of Covid-19, Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said.

This is despite media reports last week which linked Malawi to an Omicron positive case detected in Israel.

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Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe told The Sunday Times yesterday that, so far, there has been no records of an Omicron case in Malawi.

Chikumbe said chances are that the said passenger might have caught Covid in transit.

“Ministry of Health has intensified on testing patients that have been diagnosed with Covid-19, during the tests, we are also testing for Omicron virus but, as of today, we have not detected the new variant,” Chikumbe said.

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WHO Friday released a report indicating that, so far, Omicron has been detected in 38 countries, excluding Malawi.

WHO said there are no reported deaths so far from the new Covid variant.

WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier urged producers of Covid-19 vaccines to adjust their products to protect against the Omicron variant.

WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan urged people not to panic over the emergence of Omicron coronavirus variant and said it was too early to say if Covid vaccines would have to be modified to fight the pandemic.

Some health experts have said the emergence of Omicron variant is evidence of unequal vaccination rates around the world.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies president Francesco Rocca has warned the international community on several occasions about the risks of very new variants in places where there is very low rate of vaccinations.

About 65 percent of people in high-income countries have had at least one dose of Covid vaccine against just over seven percent in low-income countries, UN numbers show.

Western countries have been accused of holding vaccines in which WHO has urged them to avoid a rush to give out booster shots when millions worldwide have yet to receive a single dose.

Meanwhile, three million people in South Africa (SA) have been diagnosed with infections driven by Omicron variant.

A leading epidemiologist in SA Salim Abdool Karim last week forecast that coronavirus cases in the continent’s worst-hit country could see daily infections more than triple this week to more than 10,000.

On Friday, 16,055 new cases were reported in a 24- hour reporting cycle, taking the cumulative laboratory-confirmed cases to 3,004,203.

According to Ministry of Health Covid updates, there have been 61,936 infections and 2,307 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Malawi since the pandemic began.

The country has administered at least 1,450,801 doses of Covid vaccines so far representing about 3.9 per cent of the population.

President Lazarus Chakwera, speaking in his capacity as Southern African Development Community Chairperson, recently faulted travel restrictions imposed largely by the West on African countries, mostly from southern Africa, following the detection of Omicron in Botswana and South Africa, saying the decision is based more on “Afrophobia” than science.

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