...IDEATIONS…GoddyChitty @Large By Godfrey Chitalu
A FEW years ago in Chipata, I visited the Zambia Malawi Mwami border, aptly named because of its proximity to the seat of power for Paramount Chief Mpezeni, who ascended to the throne in 1981.
A cursory observation showed that Malawian visitors to Zambia were not in any way being tested for COVID 19. There was not even pretension of being given tedious COVID 19 entry forms.
On the other hand, a Zambian visitor to Malawi had a torrid time entering that country because of strict COVID 19 related protocols. Immigration and medical staff have hardened rules, ever since two cabinet ministers succumbed to COVID 19 on the same day; sparking three days of national mourning.
As a teetotaler, I’ve had my forays to the border, to chill and liberate non intoxicating drinks and savor goat meat at one popular joint called Kwamanda. Previously one would walk into Malawi and back without so much of a fuss.
The death of Minister of Transport and Public Works Sidik Mia, and that of Local Government Lingson Berekanyama, has changed the status quo. Now everyone entering that country has to undergo a COVID 19 rapid test.
On my recent visit, after having encountered nonplussed Zambian staff, I took the plunge and asked to be tested on the other side. A courteous medical staff told me the procedure and made me ready. He continued to explain why he preferred a nasopharyngeal rather than an oropharyngeal test.
“Many patients vomit if you tested from the mouth, so we find it easier to test from the nose” In essence, because of the mixed eating nature of humanity, even us non- medical staff could tell that testing from the mouth is bound to give inordinately higher false tests!
I was made to sit on a rather discomfort metal chair and asked to rest my head on its headrest. He then deftly inserted a long thin white swab horizontally in my nose, while rotating it towards the rear wall of the oropharynx, oblivious that I was uncomfortable.
What he did afterwards didn’t bother me, as I closed my eyes to suppress tears. Even after the swab, tough questions arose on why I wanted to go to Malawi, unknowing to him that it was a ruse to assess the situation and head back home.
Since the vast majority of Malawians are dependent on Chipata for their daily household needs, we should surely reciprocate by conducting our own due diligence on their COVID 19 status.
As droves entered our country, I heard one dissatisfied trader speak on top of her voice, to no one in particular “Achimwene are you serious, why aren’t you testing for COVID 19 at your border?”
She was right, it seems we are still joking with this highly infectious disease.
To balance things up, seven days later I traversed the five kilometers to the newly built Chipata
District Hospital. Save for the lunch hour delay, all went well. I arrived twenty minutes before
13:00 hours and found staff had gone for early lunch. One call to their superior, saw some movements as they quickly retracted their steps and had all of us tested within minutes. As we waited for results, which came out rapidly, a thought crossed my mind that we needed such tests at all our border points. The way those who tested positive were separated from the pack was visible and left a sour feeling, as one of them was a long term confidant.
The happenings at other border points in our province is not inspiring. I know with certainty that things are not ok at both Chanida and Mqocha. The latter called Lusunta on the Zambian side is approximately 20 kilometres from Lundazi. It is highly porous and not as populous as Chanida on the Mozambique border. Chanida, which is 55 kilometers from Katete, on one of the worst roads in our country, has a steady volume of more than 100 trucks per day.
It has unhindered potential to spread COVD 19 to all the arteries of our country. Should we start advocating for closure of certain border points because we have no COVID 19 testing capacity?
Coming back to our hinterlands, why did we stop COVID 19 screening at Kacholola? Don’t we know that Great East Road being an international gateway to both Malawi and Mozambique, is bound to be a massive COVID 19 spreader? Are there any reasons that the Ministry of Health can advance for the sudden stoppage? Provision of roadside testing for buses and trucks bound to Malawi and Mozambique is a minimum we can do on this route.
Do we have any discernable plan for drivers transiting through our country? At least I have empirical evidence that the Ministry of Health so far has no plans for those heading to and from Malawi and Mozambique! I can’t speak for trucks heading to Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and down South.
My contention is that all international routes in our country must have rapid testing facilities. Limiting testing at selected borders is a big joke! These precision digital infrared contactless hand held frontal temperature guns donated should be utilized. We need concerted efforts in diagnostic testing of Coronavirus disease. Aren’t we told that enough testing kits were donated to our country?
By the way, for us with kith and kin in medical facilities, has anyone seen a nurse using a contactless thermometer? In this COVID 19 era, every facility must be well equipped to handle patients technically, before swabbing for COVID 19.
I keep mentioning that centralized management in our country is slowly taking a toll on us. Yes, there is now an intensity in testing people for COVID 19 at central levels but we need to decentralize to all levels. If most of our borders are porous and we have no plans for onsite testing, then we are just playing with reinfections!
In conclusion, at personal level don’t wait to be prodded: remember to stay at least 2 metres away from people, avoid at all costs to touch your face, frequently wash your hands with soap and clean water and if affordable use alcohol based hand sanitizers, only when your hands are not soiled. It is a golden rule to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing while general observance of hygiene should be your priority. Above all, go for that
COVID test now!
Lookout for the next version of IDEATIONs…GoddyChitty @large every Monday on Kalemba
Author: Godfrey Chitalu is a social commentator who writes for pleasure.
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