The Ministry of Health Wednesday announced that the government would from this Friday reintroduce stringent Covid restrictions as Malawi enters Level Three of the pandemic.
Briefing reporters in Lilongwe, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said reintroduction of the stringent Covid containment measures had been necessitated by a sharp rise in cases of Covid and deaths since June 1 this year.
Kandodo Chiponda said, currently, a total of 109 active cases were hospitalised in the country’s treatment units as of Monday this week.
She said the new Covid prevention measures would be effected on Friday after being gazetted.
Among other conditions, the country will see the introduction of a curfew from 10pm to 6am as well as the banning of political rallies.
The measures will also see the number of people allowed in indoor gatherings such as churches and weddings being trimmed to 50. Outdoor meetings will have a maximum of 100 people.
According to the minister, weddings receptions will have to be conducted within one hour.
The new measures would also see bars opening at 2pm and closing at 10pm and only for takeaway customers. Restaurants, on the other hand, would be expected to open from 6am through to 10pm to serve takeaway customers.
Chiponda further said the new rules would only allow a maximum of 10 people inside the house at a funeral, adding that vigils will be outlawed.
On markets, Kandodo Chiponda said the mandatory wearing of facemasks would be enforced, adding that there would be required to be handwashing facilities and proper social distancing.
She added that mobile markets, which normally operate once or twice a week, will now be operating once a month.
But Kandodo Chiponda said the government would keep schools open despite the rising numbers of coronavirus-positive cases.
She said day schools would be required to disinfect, screen and quarantine contacts if there are confirmed cases at a learning institution.
The Health Minister said, in the worst-case scenario, affected learning institutions would be closed for 14 days.
She said the government was aware that the measures would bring some suffering to Malawians, but said these were necessary sacrifices in order to contain the contagion.
Health rights advocate Maziko Matemba hailed the government for reintroducing the measures.
“The reintroduction of the Covid measures comes in when a country has registered an increase in cases including the number of patients being hospitalised.
“We were supposed to have these measures a few weeks ago when the country started registering more Covid cases. Sadly, we, as a country, are registering positive cases more than the baseline of five percent, which is shocking,” Matemba said.
Centre for Research and Consultancy Director Milward Tobias said it was clear that the new measures required stakeholders to adjust to the situation.
“The operating time for restaurants and beer-drinking places may just require business owners and customers to adjust. Halving the number of passengers in public transport is what is likely to have economic implications because fares may double for operators to still make the same profit they make when operating at full capacity. However, in the current circumstances, that is what we have to bear,” he said.