As Malawi stands at great risk of limited capacity to cope with the excruciating consequences of a potential coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, it has been uncovered that some business people are externalizing critical medical supplies from Malawi to other countries.
Investigations show that some reasonable medical supplies such as protective face masks and latex gloves have, in the past few weeks, been bought off the shelf or warehouses of private suppliers and shipped to China and other countries where they are in high demand amid the Coronavirus outbreak.
“As the larger population is grappling to wade off the deadly virus in China and other countries, the demand for masks and other protective gear has reached an all-time high. The fact that most factories remained closed meant meeting the demand would be a big problem hence turning to countries such as Malawi for restocking,” a highly placed source in the ministry of health told iHubOnline.
Our source has hinted about fears that anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) could be among much-sought medical supplies in the wake of the Coronavirus which has killed over 1,500 people, a majority of them in China.
Although the novel Coronavirus has no medication yet, health authorities in China have touted ARVs as a readily available suppressant of the virus as tests for an appropriate drug are ongoing.
Government has since acknowledged that, indeed, some medical supplies were being externalized.
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Trade and Industry have now instituted a ban on all medical supplies not produced in the country.
“The suspension has, therefore, been effected in order to ensure that there is adequate supplies of medical products that would be in demand locally in case of any outbreaks such as the coronavirus,” says Dr. Dan Namarika, Secretary for Health.
Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism Dr. Ken Ndala has weighed in on the ban, saying it will be lifted once global supply improves.
“The measure will also help to save the much needed foreign exchange (through reduced imports),” he noted.
Health activist Maziko Matemba has hailed the ban, describing it as timely.
According to a BBC report, China has procured over 220 million masks from South Korea in the past month.
UK-based face mask producer, Cambridge Mask Company, reported to have sold out supplies to China and other countries.
Meanwhile, other countries such as India and Taiwan have also banned exportation of medical products such as face masks as a way of preparing for potential outbreaks.
In terms of the country’s preparedness, Ministry of Health Spokesperson Joshua Malango recently told iHubOnline recently that the country has a sound mitigation plan in place.
“We have a very solid plan building on our success with regard to our Ebola prevention plan,” said Malango.
As part of the Ebola prevention, the British government, through the UK Aid, and UNICEF supplied Malawi with protective wear and equipment to the tune of close to £ 500,000.
The supplies include overalls, surgical gloves, boots, goggles, surgical masks and protective aprons.
There is yet to be support related to the Coronavirus specifically.