By Steve Chilundu, Nation Publications Limited
Medical doctors have given a gloomy outlook of the festive season, saying Covid-19 cases will spike as a majority of the population is not vaccinated to wade off the spread of the virus through herd immunity.
Experts from Public Health Institute of Malawi (Phim) and Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi gave the sentiments during a Covid-19 virtual press conference organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter.
The briefing sought to address misinformation around the new Covid-19 Omicron variant, which is now in the country and spreading rapidly in Europe, and discuss Malawi’s preparedness as the festive season nears.
Speaking during the virtual briefing, Phim director in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ben Chilima, said the prediction is that the Covid-19 positive case numbers will increase and very fast.
He said: “This is what we are seeing in South Africa, Europe, United States of America and everywhere. The trend across the world is that the Omicron is not producing severe cases partly because majority of those who are infected are those who were vaccinated and the other part is they are of young age.”
In the same vein, Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi president Dr. Victor Mithi said Covid-19 has been a thorn in clinical flesh.
From a clinical point of view, he said they have not really started seeing a sudden surge in hospitalisation cases, but the anticipation is that as the festive season approaches and towards January 2022, the country’s hospitals will be overwhelmed as majority of Malawians are not vaccinated.
Mithi said: “Our hospitals will be overwhelmed and our healthcare workers will be consumed assuming that we continue doing business as usual as people are not coming to get vaccinated and are not following the preventive measures.”
Misa Malawi chairperson Teresa Ndanga said information is the most powerful tool that can be used to defeat Covid-19, especially the new variant Omicron which remains an enemy of progress.
She said it was imperative for the media to understand Omicron’s transmissibility, severity, effectiveness of vaccines in the wake of the new variant and what ought to be done among Malawians on the pandemic.
Ndanga said: “We are all aware that Covid-19 pandemic also brought information pandemic called misinformation and disinformation. Blatant lies and all sorts of incorrect information have been cooked around the pandemic.
“I would like to ask journalists and media outlets not to tire in giving out accurate information around the Covid-19 pandemic”.
She expressed concern with the continued vaccine hesitancy among Malawians hence emphasised that information remains key in influencing Malawians to get vaccinated.
About 633 000 people were fully vaccinated as of December 12, a number too small as compared with 11 million people that government projected to vaccinate.
New Covid-19 cases in Malawi on Monday hit three-digit levels for the first time in months. Yesterday, 235 new cases and two deaths were reported.
Misa Malawi, in partnership with DW Akademie, has been organising Covid-19 press briefings to facilitate access to relevant, accurate and credible information around the pandemic.
This story first appeared in The Nation newspaper of Wednesday, December 15, 2021.