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Court order upsets government

The government has criticised High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda’s order which released four Chinese nationals who had been quarantined at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe on March 17 2020.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services had sent back to China 10 nationals and detained four others in keeping with international practice to curb the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Reports indicate the four through a local legal firm, Wilkinson & Associates, sought a court order which Judge Nyirenda granted, releasing the four before tests were conducted on them.

The court order also released the four into the country before the elapse of the recommended 14-day quarantine period.

In a statement released yesterday, Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, Mark Botomani, warned that the release of the four Chinese nationals has placed Malawian lives at risk of the pandemic.

“The government finds Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda’s order disturbing and short on patriotism as he has undermined local and global efforts to protect lives from the virus,” the statement reads.

“The court order has the potential to make Malawi a weak link in global efforts to fight Covid-19. It is against this background that [the] government is dismayed with Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda’s order that may have put millions of Malawians at potentially high risk.

“We find it unfortunate that of all players, it should be the Judiciary that chooses to put the lives of millions at a potential risk, especially at a time players in different sectors have complied with [the] government’s guidance in Covid-19 prevention.”

Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court, Agness Patemba, said she could not comment on the government’s position as she was yet to see the statement.

Spokesperson for the Department of Immigration, Joseph Chauwa, said the department is working with the office of the Attorney General to vacate the order.

“As a government agency, we always work with the office of the Attorney General on legal matters, so we are also doing that to ensure that the order is vacated and that the Chinese nationals are put back on quarantine,” Chauwa said.

Governments across the globe are instituting tough measures, including lockdowns and travel bans to curb the spread of Covid-19 which has killed over 13,000 people and affected over 300,000 others worldwide.

Malawi has not registered any Covid-19 case thus far but the authorities have been monitoring over 200 people placed on quarantine at designed centres.

On Friday, President Peter Mutharika declared a state of disaster in the country in view of the threat of Covid-19 leading to closure of schools and stopping of gatherings of over 100 people at one place.

Earlier, Mutharika directed the formation of a Special Cabinet Committee to tackle Covid-19 threats to the country.

Covid-19 is a respiratory infection that humans can transmit.

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