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New Covid threat

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Maziko Matemba

A new Covid Omicron variant has been detected in several countries, including the Southern African Development Community member state of Botswana, putting Malawi’s Ministry of Health officials on alert.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the sub-lineage of the variants is Omicron BA.4 and BA.5.

On April 11 2022, the government of Botswana issued a report on a new sub lineage of the Omicron Covid virus.

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Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, who is also Presidential Taskforce on Covid co-Chairperson, said investigations were underway to determine the impact of the new variant, indicating that they are looking at issues such as “its capacity to transmit more efficiently, its impact on vaccine effectiveness and whether it is able to evade immune response, and/or cause more severe or milder disease”.

Kandodo Chiponda appealed to Malawians to continue observing existing Covid preventative measures as the ministry waits for information on the variant.

“Let me assure Malawians that the Government of Malawi will continue to monitor the situation and provide further guidance to its population as more information becomes available about the new variant,” the minister says in a Covid update statement.

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Last week, WHO official Maria Van Kerkhove indicated, in a tweet, that, so far, “we haven’t detected any changes in the epidemiology or severity of BA.4 or BA.5 compared to previous sub-lineages of Omicron. But this may change!”

On Wednesday last week, the WHO emergency committee on Covid collectively affirmed that Covid remained a major public health danger.

Meanwhile, health rights advocate Maziko Matemba has advised Malawians to be vigilant.

“There is a possibility of the new Omicron variant spreading to Malawi as has been the case with several other variants that have come before.

“Vaccination as one of the major tools for fighting new Covid variants. I would, therefore, like to urge people to get vaccinated for Covid,” he said, adding that, since the emergence of Covid in 2019— when the first case was recorded in China— there have been several new variants of Covid.

For instance, in October last year, the Ministry of Health announced that Malawi had detected the first case of the Omicron variant which, among other things, is characterised by high re-infection rate.

The Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa, spread to other countries before reaching Malawi.

According to the Presidential Taskforce on Covid, Malawi did not register a new Covid case within the 24 hours leading to Monday.

It, however, indicated that one person had died of Covid-related complications.

“The new death was from Lilongwe and was unvaccinated,” it said in a statement.

Cumulatively, Malawi has recorded 85,728 cases including 2,632 deaths, representing a case fatality rate of 3.07 percent. Of these cases, 2,833 are imported infections and 82,895 are locally transmitted.

Cumulatively, 81,915 cases have now recovered, with the recovery rate being pegged at 95.55 percent and 277 were lost to follow-up. This brings the total number of active cases to 904.

Between Sunday and Monday, there were two new admissions and no new discharge from treatment units.

Currently, four active cases are hospitalised and all are from Blantyre.

In terms of testing, 187 Covid tests were conducted.

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