Vice-President Salous Chilima says Malawi is still ill -prepared to fight Coronavirus (Covid-19) and has since asked the government to consider some firm measures he has proposed to ensure that the lives of ordinary Malawians are protected and their livelihood cushioned from the effect of the virus pandemic.
Among the measures, Chilima says government should equip, empower, motive and protect health workers who are directly dealing with patients to fight the pandemic.
He said the outbreak is serving a “great lesson and a wake-up call” to the leadership of the country to improve the public health system which he said they have “habitually neglected and abused “for a long time.
“With most countries around the globe closing their borders, there is no chance for these leaders to catch a flight and seek care in India, South Africa, Singapore or USA if they get sick.
“This moment in time should make these leaders get serious start making sure that our health facilities have adequate equipment and medical supplies, as well as ensure enough and well-motivated health personnel. Talking about these is not enough. We must act. We must walk the talk,” he said.
Chilima said while he commends the government’s decision to recruit additional 2000 health workers, there was need to provide the existing ones with equipment, protective gear and pay them well and on time.
“I commend the work and gallant fight by the health workers who are risking their lives to attend to patients and fight the pandemic. It is important that they are given necessary equipment and protective gear. It is immoral for members of the inter-ministerial committee to be getting allowances to hold press briefings while health workers who are directly involved in the fight are receiving peanuts,” said Chilima.
He said additional funds earmarked for Malawi Enterprise Development Fund (MEDF) should be channelled to the health sector saying the money at MEDF will just be abused, and paid to ghost beneficiaries.
Chilima called upon government to ensure that there are enough testing kits and isolation centres in the country.
“We have observed that there are glaring gaps in our state of preparedness. We need to be honest and transparent in our fight,” said Chilima.
He said government is not serious with testing as there are only 20,000 test kits donated by a Chinese billionaire and three testing centres, two in Blantyre and one in Lilongwe.
“We need more test kits and testing centres. We need one in Mzuzu and another one in Mangochi because in these places there are also people who have travelled from hotspots who need to be tested,” he said.
Chilima also bemoaned that there are not enough ventilators and ICU facilities in the country, saying the available ventilators cannot assist even 100 patients while there are only 20 ICU units available.
“Government is not ready to fight this pandemic. The taskforce is lying to Malawians. It is not a sign of weakness to acknowledge your shortfalls but a sign of leadership,” he said.
President Peter Mutharika on Saturday announced several measures to help cushion the economic impact of the disease.
Those include a string of tax breaks for businesses, a reduction in fuel prices and an increase of risk allowance for health workers.
But Chilima on Wednesday said in his televised news conference that Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) should reduce the price of fuel further, saying oil prices have declined globally.
“MERA has only transferred 50 percent of the global oil price decline to the consumers. MERA should reduce the price further to cushion the consumers,” said Chilima.
He said petrol should be reduced to K623 per litre petrol, K704 diesel and K504 paraffin.
The Veep also asked water boards to reduce the price of water by latest 30 percent in poor areas since people are using a lot of water to wash hands and clean property.
Chilima wants PAYE for middle and low income earners to be reduced.
Remove VAT and Surtax on all medical and hygiene equipment such as soap and hand sanitizers to enable more people afford to practice regular hand washing with soap as well as use hand sanitizers, which are the paramount preventive behaviours promoted by the health experts.
He also said government should suspend turnover tax and work on making the country have power all day every day as people are working from home.
Chilima said government should reduce Corporate Tax from 30% to 20% to help businesses sustain their operations as well as prevent job losses due to reduced productivity.
He also said the Reserve Bank of Malawi should offer a further stimulus package to existing commercial banks and Small Medium Enterprises to ensure that the purpose really benefits those that will be hard hit by the inactivity and slow down of businesses during the Coronavirus crisis.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :