Returnees arrest may trigger infections in police cells-health expert

Professor Adamson Muula of the College of medicine

Public health expert Professor Adamson Muula has described as a disaster the arrest of some 30 returnees among the people who ran riot at Mapanga Quarantine centre in Blantyre on Sunday.

The College of Medicine Professor feared that putting them in police custody people whose Coronavirus status is not yet known is risking the lives of those who were already in police cells.

The 33 Malawian returnees from South Africa were taken to Mapanga Prison Training College for quarantine for them to undergo COVID-19 testing.

Pandemonium erupted around mid-day as they expressed anger over delays to release them into society and they set ablaze College property such as hostels, a guard-room, beds, chairs and mattresses.

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Firemen putting out the Mapanga inferno

Despite their demands to be released to their homes, authorities held on to their passports and travel documents arguing that they had to wait for the release of their results.

Muula indicated this is a sign that the country does not learn from past experience as it follows another incident which occurred last year where some returnees escaped quarantine at the Kamuzu stadium after allegedly bribing police officers on site.

He feared the arrest may trigger transmission of the disease wherever the suspects are being held.

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The damaged building at Mapanga. Pics from social media

“In terms of transmission of infection it’s a disaster. It’s a disaster remanding the returnees in police cells, but also because this is close to Blantyre they may be at Chichiri prison; so it’s a public health disaster when you get 30 people coming from South Africa many of whom are likely to be infected and therefore transmitting infections,” bbserved Prof. Muula

Malawi Prisons Service is yet to assess the cost of the damage at the college.  

About 518 people arrived over the weekend from the rainbow nation.

So far, 20 of the returnees are said to have escaped from the isolation centre.