The arrival in Malawi of 40 technicians from India to work at Salima Sugar Factory in Salima has sparked anxiety after 16 of them were found Covid-19 positive.
The development comes as India continues battling a devastating Covid 19 outbreak with overwhelmed hospitals recording some of the highest infection and fatality rates globally.
It also comes just days after the Malawi Government banned all travellers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but the migrants arrived before the restriction was imposed.
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda, who joined officials from the ministry on a fact finding mission at the company yesterday, confirmed that 16 workers were found positive.
She said: “They received about 40 Indians on 24th and 26th April; 32 were tested here at a private clinic and 16 were found positive after a week. They say when they came they had negative certificates.
“We have taken samples from all. We will also do sequencing to find the type of virus. We have no Malawians who have tested positive, but we have started contact testing. We will try to find if the negative certificates are genuine.”
She said as a country, we should not trust tests from outside.
“That’s why we will be doing tests ourselves so that we safeguard ourselves,” said Chiponda.
Salima Sugar Factory company secretary Charles Thupi said nine of the 40 technicians are suspected to have Covid-19, but no confirmation of results had arrived.
He said all the arrivals had negative test certificates and proceeded to be quarantined.
Said Thupi: “What has happened is that some of the technicians came into the country for sugar production for this year after getting all the necessary approvals from government.
“All of them had negative certificates. We placed them on quarantine for seven days. Out of 40 that came, we had nine suspects and asked the DHO Salima to carry out tests. We will find out if they are positive.”
But health rights watchdog, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe yesterday called for an investigation into the matter.