The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has left an indelible mark on the global stage. Malawi, like many nations, found itself grappling with the complexities and challenges of this unprecedented health crisis. Here's a concise overview of the journey Malawi has traversed in the face of this pandemic.
April 2020: The Arrival
Malawi's tryst with COVID-19 began on April 2, 2020, when President Peter Mutharika confirmed the country's first three cases. These initial cases included a Malawian of Asian origin who had returned from India, along with her relative and their housemaid. Shortly after, a fourth case emerged from someone who had recently returned from the UK, followed by a fifth case – a woman who had returned from the UK and had quarantined earlier. Unfortunately, this patient did not survive. By the end of April, Malawi had a total of 37 confirmed cases, three deaths, and seven recoveries, leaving 27 active cases.
May 2020: A Steady Climb
May saw 247 new cases, bringing the total to 284. One more life was lost, raising the death toll to four. Encouragingly, 35 patients recovered, leaving 238 active cases at the end of the month.
June 2020: Escalation
June witnessed a significant spike in cases, with 940 new infections, pushing the total to 1,224. The death toll climbed to 14. On the positive side, 218 patients recovered, leaving 950 active cases at the end of the month.
July 2020: A Grim Milestone
July marked a sobering milestone with 2,854 new cases, pushing the total to 4,078. The death toll increased by 100 to 114. On a brighter note, 1,615 patients recovered, but the number of active cases still rose to 2,089, representing a 120% increase from the end of June.
August 2020: Glimmers of Hope
By August, the recovery rate finally surpassed 50%. The government implemented several measures, including the suspension of formal meetings and gatherings, and reducing the salaries of top officials by 10% for three months to redirect resources towards the fight against the virus. Despite these efforts, the battle was far from over.
The Ongoing Challenge
As of January 13, 2021, Malawi had registered 9,991 COVID-19 cases, including 275 deaths. Of these cases, 1,844 were imported, and 8,147 were locally transmitted. The country faced a critical situation with a high positivity rate in tests (approximately 15%) and a surge in admissions, even among patients without underlying health conditions. Major cities like Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu bore the brunt of the impact, with hospitals operating at full capacity.
Notably, the country lacked the capacity to confirm the presence of the South African strain of COVID-19, but precautions were taken, and samples were sent for gene sequencing.
In conclusion, Malawi's journey through the COVID-19 pandemic has been marked by resilience, adaptive measures, and challenges that reflect the global struggle against this formidable adversary. As the nation continues to confront the virus, the resolve to protect its citizens remains unwavering.