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Malawi urged to use case decline to improve Covid-19 response

Adrian Chikumbe

Titus Divala

Statistics issued daily from the Ministry of Health have shown a downward trajectory in Covid-19 cases, a window which experts feel government should capitalise on by revamping the country’s response measures to the virus.

Recently, the ministry also announced a relaxation of some of the Covid-19 restriction measures by allowing 100 people to gather in a building and 250 to convene during outdoor engagements.

Prior to that, it had also relaxed some travel restrictions for the general public.

Epidemiologist Titus Divala told Malawi News Friday that though the situation has slightly improved, the disease is likely to launch another onslaught, come December this year.

“The decreasing case numbers are mainly a result of the normal seasonal variation that is being observed in Malawi. The disease is expected to come back with full force at the end of December or early January,” he said.

He therefore emphasised on the need for the country to get more organised in its response.

“The current decrease in cases could be used as a grace period to catch up on a number of critical issues: Covid-19 vaccination for all the 2.8 million adults aged 40 and above, which if successful, will reduce hospitalisations and deaths to nearly zero in the coming 4th wave. Yes, there is a lot of complacency now, but if you or your loved ones want to survive 4th wave, please get vaccinated,” he said.

Following the decrease in case numbers last week [Saturday], government announced lenient restriction measures for the general public to adhere to.

The decrease has also come at a time when the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine has gone down.

Looking at people’s lifestyle, it is apparent there is relaxation and most of them argue that business and life have to go on.

However, Divala said while the cases of the virus have gone down the virus remains among us and there are certain risks that have to be considered.

He said the balance between life’s normal activities at a time when the cases have gone down should include ability to move around more than before so that economic life recovers, while staying mostly outdoor, in masks, and vaccinated.

“First is the current risk of getting the virus from ongoing transmission, positivity is five percent which means that if you meet 20 people, one may have had Covid-19. Life at this positivity rate can carry on as normal but masks and avoidance of indoor activities is what will give us insurance for safety and continued decline of transmission.

“Second is the risk of struggling with Covid-19 in the 4th wave. Research has shown that the best way of protecting oneself from the virus is by getting vaccinated. If you get vaccinated now, your chance of getting the virus now or in 4th wave is reduced significantly, chance of hospitalisation is cut by 90 percent, and chance of death by over 90 percent,” he said.

Currently, Malawi is at level two of the pandemic in light of the progressive downward trend in new cases, deaths as well as increased recoveries.

Meanwhile, there are fears that the country might destroy some batches of the Covid vaccine, especially AstraZeneca, which may expire by September 30, 2021, as it experiences low vaccine uptake.

According to data from the ministry during the week, the country had 87,805 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that need to be administered before the expiry date.

The country also had 62,095 Johnson and Johnson vaccine to be administered before expiry in November.

But, Ministry of Health spokesperson, Adrian Chikumbe, said the ministry is doing everything possible to administer the vaccines.

“We are very optimistic that we will finish the vaccine before the expiry dates. As we are talking we have upped our game. We are taking, the vaccine to colleges, universities and we are vaccinating people during weekends,” Chikumbe said.

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