President Peter Mutharika Tuesday announced a 21 day lockdown as an attempt to fight the spread of Covid -19.
Mutharika said this in his address to the nation which he made side by side with a statement by Minister of Health Jappie Mhango.
Mutharika said the lockdown will take effect on Saturday, April 18 2020 and it will end on Saturday May 9 2020 at midnight.
“This lockdown may be extended beyond 9th May as circumstances warrant. I would like to urge you to fully comply with the measures because they are for the good of our country.
“Many more countries across the world have lost lives. All our neighbouring countries have Coronavirus cases and lives are being lost. If we are not careful, Malawi can lose up to 50,000 lives,” Mutharika said.
Mutharika further said during the lockdown, the government will intensify laboratory testing for Coronavirus, continue with the recruitment of additional health personnel, provide Personal Protective Equipment to health facilities and conduct massive awareness campaigns.
Mutharika then warned that fighting Coronavirus is challenging and expensive war which requires about K150 billion.
“Let me once again appeal to all political leaders that we need to join our hands in fighting this Coronavirus pandemic. No one must take advantage of the suffering of people and politicise Coronavirus. This is not a time for politics. This is a time for saving lives,” he said.
Speaking before Mutharika, Minister of Health Jappie Mhango who is also chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Covid-19, said he effected the lockdown in accordance with Section 31 of the Public Health Act.
Mhango said the lockdown was crucial as the pandemic continues to hit all countries including Malawi hard.
“During the lockdown, persons providing essential services shall be allowed to operate in accordance to the rules and these measures. All essential services shall be obtained within the locality of residence,” he said.
Mhango further said all central markets shall be closed and that markets within localities shall remain open from 5:00am to 2:00pm on any day.
But legal expert Sunduzwayo Madise writing on his Facebook page, said it is important that the lockdown be implemented in accordance with the law.
He notes that Section 4 of the country’s Constitution guards various rights and freedoms and any move which curtails these rights should not be seen to contradict the constitution.
“Currently, the right law to deal with such drastic measures is a Declaration of a State of Emergency by the President under the Constitution, not rules made by a minister. This is a serious issue which needs the full power of the law in dealing with it,” he said.
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira also warned that a lockdown will greatly negatively affect poor Malawians who depend on day-to-day earnings to survive.
“Many people have already been deprived means to sustain their livelihood,” Kaferapanjira said.
According to the government, Malawi had registered 16 Covid-19 cases with two deaths.
Worldwide, over 1.8 million cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed with over 113, 000 deaths registered.