On Thursday, April 2, President Peter Mutharika confirmed the country's first three cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). According to Mutharika, the cases involved a resident of Lilongwe who traveled to India, one of their relatives, and their maid. Authorities have begun tracing those who have come into recent contact with the patients, and those who are identified will be required to go into quarantine for 14 days.
On Friday, March 27, the Malawi Department of Civil Aviation announced that all international flights to and from Malawi will be suspended as of Wednesday, April 1, until further notice, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. According to the statement, flights ferrying health personnel, essential health equipment, and emergency relief items are exempted from the ban, while flights transporting returning Malawian citizens and residents or cargo will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
As of Thursday, April 2, a state of disaster remains in effect, as does a ban on foreigners from entering the country. Malawian residents and nationals arriving from COVID-19-affected countries will be subject to mandatory self-quarantine or institutional quarantine.
Schools and universities have been closed since Monday, March 23. Authorities have also banned public gatherings of more than 100 people, which applies to weddings, funerals, religious congregations, rallies, and government meetings. Security forces have been deployed to enforce the restrictions.
Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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