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Tackling simmering Covid threat

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KALINDEKAFE—We are in a global village

By Wanangwa Tembo, contributor:

While the world continues registering new Covid cases over two-and-a-half years since the outbreak was first registered in China, adherence to preventive measures has drastically waned in Malawi.

Civic educators say the development is retrogressive in the fight against the disease.

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There has been a concerning surge of the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron in many countries in Europe and Asia, something that has pushed the global cumulative cases to over half a billion.

At least 0.58 billion cases have so far been recorded worldwide representing 6.3 percent of the global 7.9-billion-people population.

Back home, the daily Covid updates by the Ministry of Health show the figures are picking up although significantly slower than was the case during the same period last year.

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However, civic educators warn that the Covid threat in Malawi remains high; hence, the need to continue observing preventive measures.

National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust says it has stepped up awareness and sensitisation activities across the country to ensure people do not relax in observing preventive actions.

Nice National Programmes Manager Gray Kalindekafe says as a member of the global community, the country needs to be alert to shrug off the risk of having cases rising to overwhelming levels.

“We are in a global village; hence, still at risk because people travel a lot across continents. Viruses spread exponentially and a few cases can quickly rise.

“As such, the reported low cases here should not make us relax and think that we are safe. We need to continue with civic education and following preventive measures since the danger is still with us,” Kalindekafe says.

Nice is working with ministries of Health, National Unity, Information and Digitization, and local councils to spread messages about how to prevent Covid.

“We continue to support implementation of risk communication and community engagement interventions using various delivery platforms such as door to door, mobile van, community drama sessions and social media,” Kalindekafe says.

In Mzimba, Chitipa, Karonga and Kasungu, Nice is conducting a 14-day awareness and mobilisation campaign targeting mobile markets and hard-to-reach areas.

During these activities, Nice also conducts citizen engagement sessions where people ask questions and officers from Ministry of Health provide answers and clarify on myths about the pandemic.

Health officials also take advantage of these activities to vaccinate those who wish to take the jabs.

“We believe everyone has the right to information and to get vaccinated,” Kalindekafe says.

He further reminds people in the country to be mindful that the number of people who have been vaccinated remains too low to reach herd immunity which requires that between 70 and 90 percent of the population be immunised.

Leading the mobilisation and vaccination crew in Mzimba, Chrissy Linje from Mzimba District Health Office has a busy itinerary administering the jabs in various parts of the district.

She says the demand for vaccine is still high.

“People are willing to get vaccinated. All we have to do is get closer to them because sometimes they are discouraged by long distances to access the vaccine,” Linje says.

The World Health Organisation supports achieving herd immunity through vaccination and not allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population as this would result in preventable cases and deaths.

Herd immunity or population immunity is the direct protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.

Since reinfection is possible, it is recommended that people who have already had Covid get vaccinated which is better protection than getting sick with the virus.

Studies show that unvaccinated people who already had Covid are more than twice as likely as fully vaccinated people to be reinfected.

At least 2.2 million people in Malawi have had at least a jab while more than 1.7 million have been fully inoculated against the virus with 50,300 of them having received booster shots.

Since recording the first case in April 2020, Malawi has tried to put in place various measures for fighting the global plague that has choked economies, resulting in massive job losses.

However, the measures which include school closures, travel bans, mandatory wearing of face masks, cancellation of public events, have since been relaxed.

With the resurgence of cases in countries such as China, the United States, Canada and Brazil, campaigners say awareness must not diminish.

Cumulatively, Malawi has reported over 87,000 cases of which 96 percent have recovered. At least 2,660 people, or three percent, have succumbed to the pandemic so far.

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