Even before the world finds medication for Covid-19, those suspected of having coronavirus in the country are fast learning that there is an immediate ‘cure’, namely patience, without which one would easily lose their mind.
This is because those that are going for a test without paying for the service are being subjected to long, painful delays before getting results despite that the pandemic calls for urgency from every angle.
We have it on good authority that those conducting the tests are prioritising people who are travelling to destinations outside Malawi and ignoring those that are staying put in the country, yet chances are that both groups might have come into contact with coronavirus confirmed cases.
For instance, a senior government official tested positive for Covid-19 recently and his driver decided to undergo a coronavirus test. He got tested at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) on Tuesday but, by Thursday, he had not yet received his results. This means he cannot take some of the actions he is supposed to, including informing those he might have come into contact with.
This week, Malawi News camped at KCH Laboratory and interviewed, among other people, Rola Poison, who works as a maid in New Gulliver.
“My boss tested positive for coronavirus. Feeling that I might have been exposed to the virus, I decided to get tested,” she said.
She said, after undergoing the test on Monday, she was hopeful that she would get results in good time.
However, by Thursday, she had not received the results.
“They told me to go back to the hospital on Saturday [today] and, yet, I have been sick for the past week. At first, I thought it was just malaria but, after I got informed that my boss has been sick, I knew that I could be having Covid-19 symptoms. I had been in physical contact with her.
“It reached a point where I was so sick that I phoned a doctor, who suggested that I call for an ambulance or buy antibiotics, which I have been taking. When I started feeling better and came to get the results on Wednesday, they told me to come on Thursday. Today [Thursday], they are telling me to come and get the results on Saturday. Danger is, I could be infecting fellow commuters on minibuses,” she said.
We also spoke to James Mtambalika, who got tested for coronavirus last week.
“I have been here several times and I have been told that priority is for those that are travelling abroad and are in need of Fit to Fly Certificates Covid-19 certificates,” he said.
Malawi news followed Mtambalika to the laboratory and waited to hear if his name was among those of the lucky few that were travelling abroad. Again, it was not his lucky day.
“This is what I have been going through. I have been coming here for the past two weeks,” he said, “but I know of travellers who got their results within 24 hours of the test.”
Luckily, coronavirus results came out on Thursday at around 4pm and his greatest fears materialised. He tested positive for coronavirus and went straight into self-isolation.
“Now that I know, I do not want to infect family members and other people,” he said.
A laboratory technician told Malawi News that they were prioritising those who were travelling abroad because they were overwhelmed with the number of coronavirus suspects getting tested every day.
When informed about the problem, Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo threw the ball back at those seeking Covid-19 tests.
He said some coronavirus suspects prefer KCH for their Covid-19 tests to other centres such as Bwaira, which is against procedure.
“Kamuzu Central Hospital Covid-19 testing centre is not for walk-in patients; it’s a referral hospital. People should first go to testing centres nearest to them before going to KCH,” Mwansambo said.
Meanwhile, health rights activist Maziko Matemba has urged medical personnel to intensify such activities as supervision.
He said, without doing so, the country could lose momentum in the fight against Covid-19.
“One thing we have observed is that our people are not satisfied with the pace of getting results. We are in a crisis and Ministry of Health officials should look into this,” Matemba said.
He added that feedback would also be key to the Covid-19 fight.
“There is a need to build the capacity of healthcare workers. Coronavirus suspects should also know about Covid-19 protocols,” he said.