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Industry chief cautions on effects of lockdown

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Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Officer, Chancellor Kaferapanjira, has warned that any move to lockdown the country as a way of preventing the coronavirus pandemic could have devastating consequences of the lives of the poorest of the poor Malawians.

The development comes at a time Capital Hill has been implementing various restrictions to limit the spread of the virus

Kaferapanjira said it is common knowledge that any planned lockdown will rock down any kind of business in Malawi’s very small economy, and certainly employees.

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The MCCCI chief said in an economy which is very minute and, therefore, highly dependent on other countries even for basic food stuffs, a lockdown spells doom.

He said this is most likely the reason why the likes of Zambia and Mozambique, much which are larger economies with more confirmed cases than Malawi, have avoided implementing disastrous lockdowns.

“Hundreds, if not thousands of jobs have already disappeared as a result of stalled levels of operations in businesses. The consequence has been that many people have already been deprived means of living to sustain their livelihoods.

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“These people have in turn joined the already huge informal sector which lives from hand to mouth. These people do not make enough money to save anything and even what they earn in a day cannot sustain them for than a couple of days,” Kaferanjira said.

Kaferapanjira said it may as well be the case that a lockdown would result in more lives being lost than those lost to Covid-19.

“Perhaps the difference would be, who loses lives. Lives and livelihoods of the people at the margin (poor people) matter just as well and should be equally considered. Their lives and livelihoods should not be sacrificed. A lockdown may end in more deaths than the number of lives that would be saved by a lockdown.

“Another trend of the Covid-19 cases in this country seems to suggest that it is, at least for now, localized in one section of the Malawi community. Wouldn’t it be wiser dealing with that identified section or community first? As stated before the target group in question is in no way going to feel the pinch of the lockdown despite being the one that imported the pandemic into the country,” he said.

The MCCCI boss argued that it is the vulnerable, helpless poor section of the society who make K1,000 or K2,000 profit per day by selling bananas or vegetables on the roadside, or by selling CDs at a parking area or market who will be consigned to hell because of a few identifiable culprits who can easily be targeted for isolation.

“From a business angle, a lockdown will be disastrous for the livelihoods of these microbusinesses. Authorities are in positions to provide opportunities to people to fend for themselves. Lives are important as they cannot be replaced once taken away, and so are livelihoods as lives do not matter without livelihoods.

“Malawi should not consign more people to die due to denial of their means of livelihoods. Let us learn from our neighbours, Zambia and Mozambique,” Kaferapanjira said.

As of Monday, Malawi had recorded a total of 16 coronavirus cases with two deaths.

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