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Lockdown to hurt the poor

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Joseph Chidanti Malunga

Some citizens in the country have blamed the government for ordering a lockdown in the face of Covid-19 saying poor Malawians will be hard hit by the decision. “If they say people shouldn’t be leaving their homes, how will the unemployed who depend on daily piece works or do businesses survive?” asked Andrew Gama a resident in Blantyre.

A woman who only identified herself as Mayi Gozeya said she depends on her small business to feed her family daily. “Every day, I have to do vending in order to find some money to buy food for my struggling family. Twenty-one days is a long time and how does the government expect me to feed my family when I cannot do business?” she asked.

Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU), while commending the government for taking measures to prevent further spread of Covid-19, has urged the government to make sure that people’s livelihood remain of paramount importance. “Government should provide some financial packages, cash transfers and free food to vulnerable workers and households that earn their living in the informal economy.

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Citizens in unplanned settlements in the urban and peri-urban areas should also be given priority. This will enhance adherence and compliance to the lockdown,” reads a statement signed by MCTU’s secretary general Denis Kalekeni.

MCTU also proposed that the government Increase the PAYE free threshold from K40, 000 to K100, 000 as well as reducing value added tax on food items.

Opposition political parties have also described the lockdown which President Peter Mutharika announced on Tuesday as a copy and paste of measures which are being applied elsewhere and is not practical in Malawi.

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Malawi Congress Party spokesperson Maurice Munthali said Malawi has unique characteristics and need unique measures to deal with the virus. “You cannot just copy what other countries are doing without looking at our own uniqueness. How is the government going to cushion the majority of Malawians who live on a hand to mouth basis?” he asked.

UTM spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga concurred with Munthali saying a lockdown is not practical in Malawi. Minister of Health Jappie Mhango who is also chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 as well as Minister of Information Mark Botomani did not pick phone calls on several attempts.

But announcing the 21- day lockdown, Mutharika, said the lockdown will take effect on Saturday, April 18, 2020 until Saturday May 9 2020 but could be extended if circumstances warrant. So far, over 1.8 million people have tested positive with over 113, 000 deaths registered worldwide. In Malawi, 19 cases have been confirmed with two fatalities.

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