By Duncan Mlanjira
Since the first case of Coronavirus-related death in April, Malawi has cumulatively recorded 146 deaths as the total figure of registered cases is now at 4,658.
Since August 1 alone, there had been 36 deaths — six on August 1 (from 108 new cases recorded); three on the 2nd (from 45 new cases); none on the 3rd (from 42); five on the 4th (from 88); eight on 5th (from 65); a further eight on the 6th (from 65); none on the 7th (from 84); six on the 8th (from 49) while as of Sunday the 9th, there were three new deaths from 34 new.
In his situation report on Friday, co-chairperson of Presidential Taskforce Force on COVID-19, Dr. John Phuka says the new deaths recorded as of Sunday are from Blantyre, Chiradzulu and Mangochi.
All the new cases are locally transmitted infections — 18 from Blantyre, six from Lilongwe, three each from Mzimba North and Nkhotakota, two from Kasungu and one each from Karonga and Nkhata Bay.
Of the cumulative 4,658 cases, 1,031 are imported infections and 3,627 are locally transmitted.
“Cumulatively, 2,375 cases have now recovered bringing the total number of active cases to 2,137,” says the report.
The average age of the cases is 36.7 years, the youngest case being aged 1 month, the oldest being 93 years old and 66.8% are male.
The report further says the country has so far conducted 34,763 COVID-19 tests in 45 COVID-19 testing sites of which 320 tests have been done in the past 24 hours of Sunday, August 9.
Following the increase of the registered cases, the government has effected partial lockdown which has been gazetted in Parliament as the Public Health (Corona Virus and Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Management Rules, 2020).
Among some preventive directives in the Rules is the mandatory wearing of face masks in public places whose noncompliance attracts a fine of K10,000.
This directives also coincides with a declaration by World Health Organization (WHO), who has set aside 7th to 14th August as World Mask Week in an effort to raise awareness and promote the use of mask by the public.
In its 4th day of the World Mask Week, Dr. Phuka says those that are COVID-19 positive must self-isolate and put on a surgical mask always.
“Surgical masks must always be used when taking care of a COVID-19 suspected or positive patients both in health care setting and at home.
“Heath care workers and other frontline workers are advised to strictly follow the Infection Prevention and Control measures at all times.
“The use of face masks is part of a comprehensive package of the prevention and control measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19.
“Face masks can be used either to prevent transmitting the disease to others or to protect oneself.”
Dr. Phuka outlines some guidelines on how to wear and remove a mask:
• Clean your hands before putting on the mask.
• Inspect the mask for tears or holes, do not use a mask that is damaged.
• Adjust the mask to cover your mouth, nose, and chin, leaving no gaps on the sides.
• Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
• Change your mask if it gets dirty or wet.
• Clean your hands before taking off the mask.
• Take off the mask by removing it from the ear loops, without touching the front of the mask.
• Medical masks are for single use only; discard the mask immediately, preferably into a closed bin. Do not liter
• Wash your hands with soap after removing the mask.
• If you are using a cloth mask, wash it in hot water using soap at least once a day.
He reiterates that a mask alone cannot protect people from COVID-19 but must be combined with other measures that include maintaining at least one-metre distance from each other; washing hands frequently and avoiding touching the face while wearing a mask.