The government has eased some guidelines that were put in place to contain the spread of Covid which had, by the time we went to press Tuesday, claimed 1,142 lives since the first case was officially recorded in the country in April last year.
Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, who co-chairs the Presidential Task Force on Covid, Tuesday announced the relaxation of the measures at a briefing on the pandemic.
She said the new measures will come into effect on Friday this week after being gazetted.
Indoor public gatherings can now involve 100 people up from 50 while outdoor events can have up to 250 attendees or patrons.
Bars have been allowed to operate up to 12 midnight from the previous 8pm limit while businesses can operate up to 10pm. Public transport vehicles can, from this Friday, carry up to 75 percent of their capacity.
The general curfew, in terms of people’s social movements, has also been extended to midnight. The guidelines, according to Chiponda will be reviewed after four weeks.
The minister said the task force met and noted that the recent daily positivity rate after the tests has been largely below five percent.
Chiponda has, however, warned Malawians against relaxing the preventive measures which include wearing of masks, frequent hand-washing and maintaining social distance.
“I want to make a special appeal to law enforcers, especially the police and the army to assist us because we have seen Malawians moving around in public places without masks. The Covid threat is still around,” she said.
The minister also announced that Boniface Massa, from the Malawi Human Rights Commission, and Principal Corruption Prevention Officer Jimmy Mtafya, from the Anti-Corruption Bureau, have been included in the task force.
Reacting to the relaxation of the restrictions, Malawi Health Equity Network Executive Director, George Jobe, said there is need to involve all concerned stakeholders at various levels so that the message is well understood by everyone.
“People need to understand that if the positivity rate starts going up again, the restrictions will have to be reintroduced. They also need to appreciate that the pandemic is still among us and must therefore continue following all the preventive measures,” Jobe said.
Meanwhile, the number of people that have been arrested so far in relation to suspected abuse of Covid funds has risen to 39, according to the Malawi Police Service.
In a statement released yesterday, police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, said five people were arrested from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs and they include Director for Response and Recovery, Moses Chimphepo.
“Police has also arrested Grace Chirwa, District Commissioner for Salima; Fletcher Nyirenda, Commissioner, Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services and Godfrey Nundwe, Procurement Officer, Blantyre City Council,” Kadadzera said.
Mathews Kasanda is a Journalist who has recently joined Times Group Newsroom as an Intern. He is an outstanding media practitioner and in 2014, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.