Malawi: Chakwera Says No Lockdown Strategy for Malawi - Announces Tax Exemptions On 'Essential Goods'

Malawi does not require nationwide lockdown to get its coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak under control, despite the fact that there is a surge in national daily infection rate but it will be business unusual with strict new curbs on life to tackle the spread of the virus, President Lazarus Chakwera has said.

Malawi virus pandemic cases have doubled in the past two weeks to nearly 1,600 with 17 deaths.

President Chakwera has noted that coronavirus is "spreading everywhere in Malawi, and it is spreading with the power to kill."

However, the new Malawi leader noted on Sunday during his national address from his private residence in Area 6, Lilongwe, that the country cannot afford to go into a lockdown because the people - most of whom live on a $1 a day - need to find something to eat on a daily basis.

Responding to a journalist question on whether there will be a lockdown, Chakwera said: " It should be business unusuak. We have to assess what we have done so far. What I have just announced are a series of restrictions, but I must sat that we can't have a 100 percent lockdown because of our substance living.

"We can't have a full lockdown like it has happened in some nations in the East or the Wesr. We just have to ensure that the measures are followed to mitigate against the spread of coronavirus."

In April, High Court judge Kenyatta Nyirenda struck down then-President Peter Mutharika's 21-day lockdown order after a petition from the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Prophet David Mbewe of Living Word Evangelistic Church argued that it would cause more harm than the impact of Covid-19.

Experts sounded the alarm in May as the country presidential election campaigns got underway, attracting tens of thousands of rally goers.

President Chakwera said it will be business unusual as he scaled down his inauguration ceremony which was supposed to take place at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, but will instead be held at the Kamuzu Barracks in the city, where only 100 people will be invited.

"We will direct all the resources meant for the Independence Day celebrations to the fight against Covid-19," Chakwera said in a televised speech.

President Chakwera also announced that his administration is exploring various tax exemptions on essential goods that are critical to hygiene and sanitation. He said the Ministry of Finance will be announcing those exemptions soon.

"I know that this is a frightening time for us as a nation, especially with dropping temperatures, but I want you to know that if we each use what we have, to do our part where we are, we are going to win this fight," said Chakwera.

President of the Physicians Assistants Union of Malawi (Paum), Solomon Chomba has since asked government to lead an exemplary life by following all Covid-19 prevention measures.

"Government has to make use of local community health organizations to disseminate Covid-19 messages and prevention measures," said Chomba.

Chomba said there is need for institutional quarantine for virus pandemic , observing that the self quarantine poses a higher risk of infecting family members and friends coming in and out of a patients quarantine home which is his or her usual residential place.

" The best option is institutional quarantine where patients can easily be monitored and enforced to follow quarantine recommendations and procedures which cannot be ably done under self-quarantine. It is evident that most of Covid-19 positive patients under self-quarantine do not actually stay home, but are seen moving around in market places and interacting with friends posing a serious danger of further spreading Covid-19," he noted.

Additionally, Chomba said these patients especially the symptomatic ones develop high fevers and some nasty symptoms which can ably be attended to at an institutional quarantine unlike self-quarantine.

Meanwhile, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr John Phuka has said they are reviewing the National Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan which expired at the end of June after being launched in March.

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