Study shows Malawi's COVID-19 deaths far lower than projected

Coronavirus testing
  • Invest in targeted interventions- Epidemiologist 

Results aimed at evaluating the size of the Coronavirus pandemic in Malawi have revealed that the number of deaths is far smaller than expected.

The studies done by Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme from 22nd May to 19th June 2020, engaged adults aged from 20 to 65 years.

Out of the 500 health workers of which 329 do office work while 171 are involved in medical work, 12.3 percent tested positive to COVID-19.

Another one by the College of Medicine conducted between 15th June to 2ndJuly 2020, involved an adult population from 18 to 59 years.

Of the 150 asymptomatic health workers, 11 percent tested positive to the virus while 150 of the asymptomatic community members 13 percent were positive.

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The study further showed a really scary transmission in Blantyre likely to be followed by Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba and that had the epidemic followed the same pattern like in Europe, China or America, Malawi would have registered a lot of deaths by now.

"Our data could suggest that Malawi is relatively early in the epidemic and that COVID-19 cases are likely to continue to rise sharply in the coming weeks, but the serology also suggests that large numbers of cases must be either asymptomatic or only show mild disease," explain study authors.

This may suggest that the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is potentially less severe or following a different trajectory when compared to experiences in China, the United States, and Europe. Some of the reasons might include climate, population demography, and prior cross-reactive immunity, researchers observe.

In his interpretation of the studies, an Epidemiologist Dr. Titus Divala stated that co-existence with COVID-19 in the country will be cheaper than previously thought and needs careful balance of minimizing risks of deaths and daily routine activities.

He said the Malawi epidemic is different from the eastern and western ones hence deserved local solutions.

Divala urged government to consider investing in local research and innovation.

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“Invest in targeted, rather than blanket and disastrous interventions. Being different than elsewhere, our epidemic deserves local solutions: local research, local modeling, local innovations, local social science, local economics

“Malawi must invest in larger studies (to confirm current findings and to track rates of severe illness and death in hospital and community; and to identify where/ when/how to target interventions),” he said.

The health expert reminded the public on the need to restrict their travel avoid patronizing large gatherings.