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Malawi President Introduces Award for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19 

A health worker records information from patient's health passport in Balaka district in southern Malawi. Feared to be carriers of the coronavirus, some medical workers in Malawi have been increasingly shunned. (Lameck Masina/VOA)

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has announced the introduction of special award for most dedicated health workers in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking during his weekly national address Saturday night, Chakwera said five health workers nominated by various medical associations will be receiving the award every three months for their dedication to work. But health workers say awarding only five people is not good enough.

Malawi continues to register an increase in the cases of COVID-19.

The coronavirus situation update report from the Presidential Taskforce Force on COVID-19 shows as of the Saturday evening, Malawi had 4,186 cases of COVID with 120 deaths.

The report also said about 100 new cases are being confirmed every day, whose transmission is now almost entirely local.

However, President Chakwera said despite the spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases, nearly half of those found with the virus have already recovered fully.

He says “This is largely a credit to our health care workers, who have bravely put themselves at risk to test hundreds of people every day, giving quarantine guidelines to those who are found positive and providing care to those in need of hospitalization.”

Chakwera described the health workers as champions who are sacrificing their lives against many odds, including depressing working conditions, depleted medical supplies, and deteriorating health facilities.

He says “Without them, we would simply have no chance and no hope against this pandemic, because they are truly our last line of defense.”

Chakwera introduced the Zikomo Presidential Award as a token of thanks to the most dedicated health care workers.

Health workers say they appreciate the gesture but say awarding only five health workers is not a good idea.

Shouts Simeza, the chairperson for Human Resource for Health Coalition, told VOA via telephone that currently every health worker is working hard to the extent that some are even getting infected with coronavirus.

Statistics show that about 350 health workers have so far tested COVID-19 positive in Malawi, with one death.

“Probably the award in my view and representing all health workers in Malawi, there should be a universal standard awards to all health workers, And I would propose that maybe the awards would be temporal waiver of tax on salaries for health workers," he said.

Simeza says besides awards, the government should also consider addressing the shortage of medical workers in public hospitals which is affecting the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

Health Minister Khumbize Chiponda says the government is addressing that.

“We are trying very hard. We have managed to get about 700 health workers, different cadres; nurses clinicians, medical assistants, health surveillance assistants just to try to bridge the gap. It is not enough but we have to start from somewhere,” said Chiponda.

President Chakwera has asked Malawians to observe preventive measures against the pandemic, which include, social distancing, wearing face coverings and regular hand washing, as the country works to formulate laws to enforce these measures.