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Peter Mutharika declares Covid-19 national disaster

President Peter Mutharika Friday declared Corona virus (Covid-19) a national disaster as a measure to prevent cases of the virus in the country.

Speaking during a national address, Mutharika said in light of technical guidance from the World Health Organisation, government is implementing activities in preparation of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The President said government has developed a Response Plan and the total budget for this plan is about K15 billion which is equivalent to $20 million.

“My government has provided K2.5 billion as immediate funding towards the Response Plan. My government appreciates the technical and financial support from development partners such as World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control, Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunisation, Department for International Development through Unicef and the Global Fund have provided towards the coronavirus.

“Despite my government’s commitment and all donor support, there is still a

gap. I, therefore, appeal for more support from the private sector and international community. We are screening for Coronavirus on all travellers arriving in Malawi through our borders and international airports,” Mutharika said.

Upon declaring a State of Disaster in the country, government has put, among others, the following measures;

  • Ministry of Health and Population is redeploying health personnel in all border posts and continue screening and surveillance of people in all entry points.
  • Government has suspended hosting of international meetings and banned public servants from attending both regional and international meetings being hosted by affected countries. The ban has been extended to all people travelling on other government-related activities such as sports.
  • Government is advising the general public to avoid non-essential travel to the affected countries.
  • Government has directed that all schools, colleges (including technical colleges), both public and private universities should be closed by Monday, March 23 2020.
  • Government is restricting public gatherings to less than 100 people. This restriction applies to all gatherings including weddings, funerals, church, congregations, rallies, government meetings etc; The national security apparatus has been ordered into action to enforce these restrictions.
  • Government has banned travel of foreign nationals from countries highly affected by coronavirus disease. However, Sadc countries are exempted. Returning residents and nationals from Coronavirus affected countries will be subjected to self or institutional quarantine.

Mutharika called on all citizens to exercise caution with the social media arguing people should stop creating panic and spreading rumours.

“Let me also speak to individuals that are using the Corona virus threat and the social media for political reasons and to express their personal hate. Stop creating panic. Stop spreading rumours on the virus. Your actions are frustrating the fight against the Corona virus. Love your county. Be humane.

“Spiritually, I call upon all Malawians of different denominations and faiths to turn to God in times of fear and uncertainty as we do in times of joy and celebration. Let us join together as we pray for God’s heart of love, mercy and truth to dwell in us and show us how to face the challenges posed by Coronavirus,” he said.

Asked on the implication of the ban on political rallies and sporting activities, Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the president explicitly explained on the need for the ban.

Meanwhile, South African Airlines (SAA) has suspended all internal flights until May 31 2020.

Through a statement issued yesterday, the airlines said Covid-19 pandemic and attendant travel restrictions resulted in substantial decline in demand for air travel.

“The situation caused many airlines across the world to ground aircraft, release their employees and to cancel flights. In the case of SAA, this decision means that SAA will only render services on its regional and domestic routes,” reads part of the statement.

About two weekends ago, President Peter Mutharika directed the formation of a Special Cabinet Committee of Covid-19 to provide a national response to the outbreak of the disease which is spreading fast across the world.

Covid-19 started about three months ago in China a city called Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease which has killed more than 3,500 people across the world.

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