The COVID-19 pandemic in Malawi is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus was confirmed to have reached Malawi on 2 April 2020. It has spread to all the districts of Malawi.
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
The case fatality ratio for COVID-19 has been much lower than SARS of 2003,but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll.Model-based simulations for Malawi indicate that the 95% confidence interval for the time-varying reproduction number R t has been stable around 1.4 since April 2020.
President Peter Mutharika confirmed the country's first three cases of coronavirus disease 2019 on 2 April. The three cases include a Malawian of Asian origin who travelled back from India, her relative and their housemaid.
A fourth case was confirmed on 4 April which involved an individual who had recently returned from the UK. A fifth case involved a woman who had returned from the UK and had quarantined some weeks earlier. On 7 April, it was announced that she had passed on. Malawi has identified three more cases, making a total of 8. One is of a 34-year-old who had immediate contact with the first case that was registered on 2 April, the second involved a 28-year-old lady who traveled from the UK on 19 March, whereas the third case was of a 30-year-old gentleman who traveled to South Africa on 16 March.
During the month there were 37 confirmed cases, three deaths and 7 recoveries, leaving 27 active cases at the end of the month.
During May there were 247 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 284. One patient died, raising the death toll to four. The number of recovered patients rose by 35 to 42, leaving 238 active cases at the end of the month.
In June there were 940 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1224. The death toll rose to 14. The number of recovered patients increased by 218 to 260, leaving 950 active cases at the end of the month.
There were 2854 new cases in July, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 4078. The death toll rose by 100 to 114. The number of recovered patients increased by 1615 to 1875, leaving 2089 active cases by the end of the month (up by 120% from the end of June).
On 8 August, the recovery rate exceeded 50% for the first time.
Despite there being no confirmed cases prior to 2 April 2020, President Mutharika declared the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster. Some of the measures that were put in place included the banning of gatherings of more than 100 people in places such as churches, rallies, weddings and funerals. He also instructed that both public and private education institutions be closed from 23 March. He further urged the government to suspend the hosting of international meetings and banned public servants from attending regional and international meetings. He called upon returning residents and nationals coming from affected countries to subject themselves to either self- or institutional quarantine.
It was only after the first four cases were identified in April that Mutharika instituted new measures which included the suspension of all formal meetings, gatherings and conferences. He further directed the Malawi Prison Services and Juvenile Centres to present a list of prisoners and juveniles who committed "petty offences" including those that have served a significant portion of their sentences for moderate crimes to the Minister of Homeland Security in order to decongest the overpopulation of the country's prisons. Other measures have included the slashing of fuel prices as well as placing a waiver on the non-tourist levy to support the tourism industry, including a waiver of the resident tax on all foreign doctors and medical personnel. The Treasury has been called upon to reduce the salaries of the President, Cabinet and deputy ministers by 10 percent for three months in order to redirect the resources to fight against the coronavirus. The Malawi Revenue Authority was instructed to open up a voluntary tax compliance window for a period of six months so as to allow taxpayers with arrears to settle their tax obligations. Mutharika called upon all offices to work in shifts except those working in essential services in order to mitigate the congestion in the workplaces. On 14 April, President Mutharika announced a 21-day lockdown starting Saturday 18 April at midnight. However, on 17 April, the Malawi High Court temporarily barred the government from implementing the 21-day lockdown following a petition by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition. The argument made by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition was that more consultation was needed to prevent harm to the poorest and most vulnerable of society.
As of 13 January 2021, Malawi has registered 9,991 cases of COVID- 19 including 275 deaths. Of these cases, 1,844 are imported infections and 8,147 are locally transmitted. 13 January 2021 recorded the highest number of cases (591) in this second wave, with the number of active cases surpassing the 3,000 mark within the past three weeks and the total number of patients admitted at a record high of 138. Cumulatively, 5,852 cases have now recovered, 134 were lost to follow-up, and 76 are still being investigated to ascertain their outcome. This brings the total number of active cases to 3,642.
In the past weeks, there has been a high positivity rate of COVID-19 tests (~15%), with increased admission of COVID-19 cases, even of patients without co-morbidities with the three cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu being the most affected. Two of the largest central hospitals KCH (Lilongwe) and QECH (Blantyre) are already at full capacity and beds are likely to run out in ETUs as well. Health workers infection increased by 15% to 754 (from 642). There is therefore an urgent need to reinforce adherence to preventive protocols.
With the new COVID-19 variant strain, the country currently has no
capacity to confirm if there is the South African strain of COVID-19. However, MOH is working on the assumption that some of this strain is circulating in Malawi and samples have been sent to South Africa for gene sequencing.