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HRDC unimpressed with government’s Covid-19 response

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Gospel Kazako

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has urged the government to engage an extra gear in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement released Sunday, HRDC expresses worry over what it calls “government’s lacklustre” approach to the fight against the pandemic.

HRDC also says healthcare workers are not being given adequate equipment despite being at the warfront of a disease that has claimed over 300 lives, including those of two Cabinet ministers namely Sidik Mia and Lingson Belekanyama.

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HRDC Executive Director Gift Trapence and National Coordinator Luke Tembo, who have signed the statement, further call for the development of a comprehensive plan that would detail how the government would respond to the crisis.

“We would thus request that government direct resources towards fighting this pandemic, even if it means rerouting resources from other budget lines.

“At Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and Kamuzu Central Hospital, the situation is so dire with an ever-increasing death toll and incoming patient numbers. There is an acute shortage of medical supplies to deal with the situation as one Covid-19 patient needs about three cylinders of uninterrupted oxygen every 24 hours,” HRDC says in the statement.

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According to the statement, the acute shortage of medical staff to support patients has overstretched hospitals beyond their limits, further calling on the government to ensure that these “soldiers of ours” who are risking their lives are well motivated and adequately incentivised.

About eight medical workers have already died of Covid-19 in the line of duty and, cumulatively, about 700 are either infected or quarantined due to exposure, according to the statement.

HRDC then calls on the government to enforce Covid-19 preventive measures while ensuring that the rights of Malawians are respected and protected.

“Hundreds of students both in secondary and tertiary education [institutions] have tested positive yet the public is still in the dark with regards to specific measures and guidelines being pursued to meet the safety and health needs of these learners,” the statement reads.

But, in a phone interview on Sunday, Information Minister Gospel Kazako said the government remained steadfast in ensuring that lives of Malawians were protected.

“I know of colleagues [Cabinet ministers] who are working 16 hours every day just to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the fight against Covid-19. So, we call for calm because, despite the dire situation we are in, the number of people recovering are far much higher than those we are losing. We will overcome,” Kazako said.

Thus far, Malawi has recorded 11,785 cases of coronavirus, 5,992 recoveries and 300 deaths.

Total active cases are currently at 5,283.

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