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Malawi hospitals under pressure as covid-19 cases surge

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Covid-19 cases in Malawi are on the rise. Local hospitals are now on the edge as the country is hit with a second wave of the pandemic.

In Blantyre, south Malawi, the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital has turned at least five wards for treating other illnesses into Covid-19 wards.

"These tents are not meant for people to be admitted. People are supposed to be admitted in 1A, ENT, 3A or pediatric but because of the increasing of numbers, people are being admitted here", Linley Kaneka, senior nurse at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital said.

It’s a stretch for frontline health workers who have been braving the odds to help save lives. Africanews learned some covid-19 patients have to wait for a couple of days to get a bed. Last week, Doctors Without Borders along with other partners built another ward in a tent on the hospital ground for the patients. The medical charity organization, which run an oncological programme at the facility, reported that the number of coronavirus patients at the hospital increased from 12 to 107 in the first three weeks of January. The hospital's maximum capacity for COVID-19 patients is currently 80 patients.

"Of late we have seen that when most of our patients who are COVID-19 positive, they spend maybe a day or two awaiting the ward to be free. So they may spend, COVID positive patients may spend a couple of days because they are almost always full", Aubrey Philemon, Healthcare worker at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital said.

Activists are calling on the government for help. "Our availability of oxygen and equipment is not adequate and maybe patients are being asked to buy. It is an area which government need to look into. Because you know the economy has gone down and economic activities have not grown much and Malawians, I think, if you look at their ability to pay for health services is almost zero", Health activist, Maziko Matemba said.

Malawi’s Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda has urged the population not to despair. "Malawians, they should not be afraid, there's no need to be afraid. There is no need to despair, no. There are a lot of people, a lot of Malawians who are coming out of the isolation centre on a daily basis fully recovered and Covid negative", she said.

Malawi is set to roll out its first round of the AstraZeneca vaccines to about 3.8 million people in about a month. That’s 20% of the country's 18 million population.