As the world intensifies the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus, a team of health workers today, Friday, reportedly abandoned post at the country’s hub to the outside world, Kamuzu International Airport, to go for lunch leaving passengers disembarking from an arriving plane helping themselves out to a bucket of treated water.
An iHubOnline journalist who was on the flight also reports that a temperature scanning machine that is normally positioned on the health checkpoint desk was also abandoned.
Further inquiries suggested that a team of health workers has been deployed to the airport.
However, the team was reportedly out for lunch when the plane arrived and passengers walked through the arrival terminal to check out at immigration and customs.
What Actually Happened
Today, Friday afternoon at around 2 O’ Clock this reporter arriving from an international assignment through the same port witnessed over 100 passengers of different nationalities alighting from the Kenyan Airways KQ 756 and going past the unmanned health checkpoints to the disbelief of the local and international passengers.
Most of them were going straight to the next line of counters for immigration formalities where immigration staff were seen covering their faces with masks as the first line of defense.
The only visible health precautionary measure observed at the International Airport and which most arriving passengers participated in was the hand-washing using Chlorine treated water.
The water was filled in a 30-litre plastic bucket placed outside the main entrance of the International arrival Terminal.
An electronic temperature detecting gadget was left unattended hence could not record any activity as passengers freely made their way out.
The reporter overheard loaded sentiments of displeasure, ridicule and mockery coming from the passengers.
Their main concern was on the quality of the hand-washing facility and how health officials kept them in a queue waiting to wash their hands with chlorine.
To make matters worse, after washing the hands, the drained water stayed within the areas making the passengers even more uncomfortable as they were seen juggling legs around to find a dry spot to step on.
“The plastic bucket does not cost more than MK 10,000 or $USD 13, why do we have to be subjected to this? ” one of the passengers murmured in the queue while waiting for his turn to wash the hands.
“This is embarrassing, if this is the way we are going to approach this issue then we are not safe. You see we have passengers that have travelled through some of the hot spot countries and we seem not to have no mechanism to check on them. We are not serious,” fumed one of the passengers who arrived from Kenya and works for one of government agencies but refused to be named.
The reporter made an effort to locate the health officials but the mission proved futile and most of the Airport staff in this section were clueless on their whereabouts.
Their office was locked and all the strategic points had no health officer in sight.
When asked to explain the situation, the Airport Commandant Don Chimtengo asked for some time to verify the matter of which he did. He confirmed the Coronavirus Check Point was left unattended as all the health staff had left for lunch but promised to take up the matter with the higher authority within the Ministry of Health and Population.
“ We had a meeting on this Virus with people from DEHO and these people are telling me that they all went for lunch because the plane arrived early than the usual time. Thanks am taking the issue with their bosses,” reads a WhatsApp response from Chimtengo.
He later described what happened as a “ bitter lesson” and confirmed that Ministry of Health officials are now aware of what happened and are working on the matter.
The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the new Corona Virus a global emergency as it spreads beyond China.
“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
He emphasized : “ The concern is that it could spread to countries with weaker health systems.”
Currently, scientists are scrambling to find out exactly where the Virus came from but a new study provides more clues to the virus’ origins, and points to bats as the most likely hosts.
Information sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website shows that human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands but rarely on fecal contamination.
It further states that there are currently no vaccines available to protect anyone from being infected.
“ You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following: wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick” further reads information from the website.
China death toll stands at 177 while over 7 thousand have been infected with 15 other countries being affected.
Immediately after the WHO announcement most Airlines, recently including Kenya Airways and Rwanda Airways have been forced suspending flights to China.