Latest situation, resources and support in Malawi

COVID-19 Travel alert

The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Malawi, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks. At 04:00 (UK) Sunday 28 November, Malawi was added to the red list for entering the UK. Sign up here to receive the latest travel alerts.

The situation in Malawi

Generally, Malawi seemed to fare comparably well through 2020 with regards Covid-19. New infections and mortality were in decline from late July, there were relatively few cases from September to December, and less than 200 Covid-attributed deaths by the end of the year. Many have speculated that this might be due to demography (with a median age of 17), climate or vitamin D. Whatever the reason, we welcomed the fact that it seemed Malawi was experiencing a very different scale of outbreak compared to that of Europe, the UK and the US.

This all changed at the start of 2021, with more deaths in January than all of 2020. Two Cabinet Ministers and two senior officials died of Covid within 24 hours and the President declared a national emergency on the 12th January, with further national restrictions on the 17th.

New cases increased exponentially in January, doubling every four to five days and there are reports of healthcare systems being potentially overwhelmed across the country and a serious shortage of oxygen.

On the 25th January the SMP organised its 11th Covid Coordination Zoom meeting, with the Scottish Parliament’s Malawi Cross Party Group, the UK Parliament’s Malawi All-Party Parliamentary Group, Malawi’s Minister of Health, Scotland’s International Development Minister, and 250 mostly Malawian and Scottish stakeholders. All six Malawian speakers on the agenda had had close colleagues and friends die of covid in the last ten days, one had just been discharged from hospital with Covid, and another could not take part as they had just contracted Covid. Anecdotally, this seems broadly representative of what the SMP is hearing across Malawi.

Many fear that the official Covid death figures very significantly under-represent prevalence, community transmission and mortality.

According to official figures (see below chart) the first pronounced wave in Malawi peaked on the 7th January, the second on 28th April, the third of 13th August.

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, Malawi

It is not possible for the SMP to keep this page updated as often as we like, so we encourage readers to visit:

Malawi, like countries throughout the region, lags very significantly behind nations like Scotland in terms of vaccine roll-out.

There were initially high levels of vaccine hesitancy which, combined with the short shelf-life of doses donated through Covax, meant Malawi had to destroy some 20,000 doses. However, all indications suggest such hesitancy has greatly reduced with, overwhelmingly, the rate limiting factor being the number of vaccine doses in the country and the challenge of distributing these to rural and remote areas.

We join Malawi in calling for an equitable global distribution of vaccines. No one is safe until everyone is safe.

We welcome the UK Government’s donations to Covax but we think this is still far, far too little. We worry about a world in which the affluent global north is vaccinated and our friends in the global south are not. This is simply not acceptable.

Resources

With our thanks to SMP member Dr Tracy Morse, we are delighted to share a range of key Covid-19 resources from Malawi. CLICK HERE to download.

Included here are:

We also thank SMP members Ripple Africa for sharing their excellent Coronavirus posters, which all members are welcome to use, in English, Chichewa, Chitonga and Tumbuka. Our thanks to Kate James.

And thank you to Tiyamike Sewing for this excellent animated video in Chichewa about how to prevent transmission through social distancing, hand washing etc.

The UK FCO has regularly updated information for UK nationals in Malawi in their Malawi travel advice, including how to return to the UK and support for those staying in Malawi.

Working with our members and partners across Malawi and Scotland, we will continue to share key Malawi Covid-19 resources. If you have a resource you feel should usefully be shared here, please email info@scotland-malawipartnership.org.

Animated video in Chichewa about how to prevent transmission through social distancing, hand washing etc - by Kenyawi Kids.

Support

Free online CPD for health workers

Horizon Medical Education have produced free online courses aimed at mid-level health workers, in part to combat some of the Covid-19 misinformation which was spreading widely. The courses are audio modules to keep data costs down, they are downloadable so can be listened to without connection and are supported by notes which can also be printed or downloaded. The courses are freely available to all SMP members and their partners in Malawi, following THIS LINK.

Logistical/partner support

We recognise that the many cancelled trips to Malawi will have significant impact on both Scotland-Malawi links and the Malawi travel and tourism sector. We are therefore happy to promote the services of the Responsible Safari Company (RSC), who have developed a package of services specifically for Scottish organisations not able to travel to Malawi as planned due to Coronavirus. CLICK HERE for further details.

Support for UK nationals staying in Malawi

There is a range of financial support from the government that UK nationals can access if they are unable to return due to coronavirus restrictions.

If you’re in Malawi, and have exhausted all other options to cover essential living costs while you wait to return home, you could apply for an emergency loan for your living costs from the UK government. You can only apply if you normally live in the UK and you cannot return home. This last-resort option is for those most in need, and you would need to repay the loan when you are back in the UK. Apply for an emergency loan.

If you need urgent consular assistance, contact the British High Commission in Lilongwe. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.

Travel to/from Malawi

Commercial flights to and from Malawi remain very limited. Check with your travel company for the latest information.

The following travel companies are operating scheduled commercial charter flights:

  • Ulendo Travels - Lilongwe to Lusaka and Dar es Salam on a number of dates throughout July and August from where there are onward flights to multiple destinations, including the UK. Interested passengers should call +265 (0) 999-970 700, +256 (0) 888 700 250 or email kisa@ulendo.net or harry@ulendo.net for further information.
  • Satguru Travels (jointly with Ethiopian Airways) - from Lilongwe to Addis Ababa on or around 4 August (final date tbc) from where there are onward flights to multiple destinations including the UK. Expressions of interest should be made as soon as possible to: mobile number: +265 992 650 650 / +265 992 85 08 50 / +265 888 52 86 59 or email: bharat.tolani@satgurutravel.com

Further details here

The above linked external content, news items and other media do not necessarily represent the views of the Scotland Malawi Partnership.