Chilima fears lack of testing will result in unchecked spread of Covid-19

Vice President Saulos Chilima has expressed concern that Malawi has tested less than 700 people to date, saying this could lead to unchecked spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking during a press briefing on Sunday night, Chilima said the lack of testing capabilities in many parts of the country is a disaster waiting to explode.

“This means that there could be many people who are carrying the virus and infecting others without even knowing about it.  This may result in an unchecked spread of the virus,” he said.

Chilima then thanked donors such as Jack Ma the founder of Ali Baba for donating medical supplies to Malawi but warned that the country’s response to the coronavirus cannot be entirely dependent on charity.

He said the country should be able to mobilise resources and procure testing kits so that these are made available to healthcare workers.

“The claim that 20,000 kits are enough for 18m people simply doesn’t make any sense. It is actually nonsensical,” he said.

Chilima also called for the need to invest in Malawi’s healthcare infrastructure and workers.  He said the coronavirus pandemic has found Malawi’s hospitals dilapidated with a shortage of essential life-saving equipment, supplies as well as workers.

“What we are seeing now has been many years in the making. And one hopes that this crisis will offer us an opportunity to radically alter course: to invest in our healthcare system so that it is better prepared to handle crises of this nature,” said Chilima.

He added that healthcare workers should also be equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) so that they are protected to protect others.

According to Chilima, procurement plans must also be put in place so that these supplies do not run out in the midst of the response.

“Unfortunately, even in times of crisis like these, there are attempts to engage only politically connected middlemen to procure these items from abroad. One would have expected that government through the Central Medical Stores and using diplomatic channels was going to procure these items directly from abroad (unless some credible local supplier has them off-the-shelf) in order to save both time and scarce resources.

“But no, they still think in these times of sorrow are also times for profiteering. Some Ministers are actually directly involved in sourcing quotations. We are aware,” he said.

On the recent raise of health workers’ risk allowances, Chilima argued that the new rates should not be limited to the period when they will be dealing with the COVID-19.

According to Chilima, the risks that healthcare workers face will remain long after the virus has been contained.

“While no amount of money can sufficiently compensate these brave sons and daughters of this country for their patriotic sacrifice, the risk allowances that they get must be meaningful.

It is, therefore, my recommendation that the upward revision of the allowances be made both permanent and inflation responsive,” he said.

Malawi has recorded 36 cases, out of which three people have died and four have recovered.