By Duncan Mlanjira
Co-chairperson of Presidential Taskforce Force on COVID-19, Dr. Phuka has strongly condemned the aggressive attack on Blantyre District Health Office health workers on Sunday, who were on duty to bury a corpse of a person who had died from COVID-19 at Malabada in Ndirande.
The health workers were dressed up in personal protective equipment (PPEs) caused some jitters amongst onlookers that included the deceased’s bereaved family.
The residents are reported to have been irked by the way the health workers were dressed, thinking they were disrespecting the deceased — an indication of their ignorance of the strict regulation set by the World Health Organisation of handling the body of a person, who has died from Coronavirus or from any other epidemics like Ebola and Cholera.
As per WHO regulations, the health workers carrying the coffin of such a deceased corpse should be in PPEs from head to toe and this task has been being performed for all the other five victims.
According to eye witness what irked the bereaved family and the onlookers was that the health workers, who also act as pallbearers, had to carry the coffin for a considerable distance and midway they decide to stop and put the coffin down, to catch their breath.
“This did not please the people, who felt that was disrespectful to the deceased with others chanting they would carry the coffin themselves, even though they were not protected from potential infection,” said the source.
Dr. Phuka has since asked the communities that would be affected by death of a COVID-19 affected person to remain calm and let health workers do their work properly.
“COVID-19 has disrupted the way we take care of the sick and bereavement to the point that in response, some communities have been hostile to our health workers and frontline staff,” Dr. Phuka said.
“To reduce risk of infection, trained health care workers have to take care of the sick and in the case of death, conduct the burial.
“This kind of burial started in the 1970s when health care workers buried those that died from Cholera outbreak. There were no such unfortunate incidence and therefore learning from our history, we can do better today.
“I continue to sympathise with the bereaved family and wish the injured health care workers a quick recovery.”
Dr. Phuka asked the public to understand the situation the country is in and support the health care workers, who are working tirelessly to protect the good health of the public.
“It is my appeal to the community security systems with support from security agencies to ensure security of our health care workers and all frontline staff as they are a valuable resource as we fight the pandemic.”
He announced that as of Monday, June 15, Malawi registered eight new COVID-19 cases, no new recoveries and no death.
Of the new cases, one is a health care worker from Mzuzu and one is from Blantyre and the other six cases were identified at Mwanza Border during routine screening of people entering the country.
Three of those six are from Blantyre, two from Mangochi and one was still being investigated.
Dr. Phuka announced that cumulatively Malawi has 555 cases including five deaths and of these 443 are imported infections and 97 are locally transmitted while 15 are still under investigation.
“Sixty-nine of the total cases have now recovered, bringing the total number of active cases to 480.
“The average age of the cases is 39.9 years of Which the youngest case is aged 1 year old, the oldest is 75 years old and 70 percent are male.
“The country has so far conducted 8,438 COVID-19 tests in 25 COVID-19 testing sites,” Dr. Phuka said.
Meanwhile as of Tuesday, June 15, the confirmed COVID-19 case total from 55 African countries reached 251,408 with reported deaths reaching 6,763 and recoveries 114,212.
At 73,533 registered cases with deaths numbering 1,568 and 39,867 recoveries, South Africa has the most reported cases where most Malawians are catching the virus.
Other most-affected countries include Egypt (46,289 cases), Nigeria (16,658), Ghana (11,964) and Algeria (11,031).
The numbers are compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University using statistics from the World Health Organization and other international institutions as well national and regional public health departments.