Malawi government has declared Covid-19, the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster and and has banned gatherings of more than 100 people as the disease continues to spread around the world and more countries in Africa are confirming positive cases.
President Peter Mutharika in a national address, monitored on taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), announced sweeping measures on Friday in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
He said restricting of public gatherings to less than 100 people applies to weddings, funerals, church, congregations, political rallies, government meetings.
The President said the national security apparatus has been ordered into action to enforce the restrictions.
Malawi’s neighbours Zambia and Tanzania have recorded two and one case, respectively, with World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus urging African countries to prepare for the worst of Covid-19 as cases increase on the continent, but Malawi is yet to confirm a case.
Mutharika urged the public to remain calm, saying hospitals can support patients by relieving the symptons while their bodies fight the infection naturally.
“As we take every precaution, we must maintain our hope because according to health experts, 97 percent of patients infected by the coronavirus get well after medical interventions,” he said.
The Malawi leader is also urging citizens to exercise caution in social interactions and dispelled two myths that black people are immune to Covid-19 and that the warm climate of Africa is protective against the virus.
Mutharika said people should take preventative measures like washing of hands often with soap and water; stopping handshakes and maintaining social distance with people.
“My government, the light of technical guidance from the World Health Organisation, is implementing activities in preparation of the coronavirus outbreak. The aim of these activities is to prevent coronavirus from being transmitted in Malawi and also to prepare the country to handle any case should a coronavirus case be diagonised,” said President Mutharika.
He said among many interventions, government has development a response plan with K15 billion budget ($20m), saying his administraion has provided K2.5 billion as immediate fundig towards the ‘Response Plan’ and is appealing for more support from the private sector and international commitment.
The President said government has suspended hosting of international meetings and banned public servants for attending both regional and international meetings being hosted by affected countries.
The ban has been extended to sports.
He also announced that all schools, colleges should be closed by Monday March 23 2020.
Mutharika announced ban foreign nationasl fro countries highly affected by coronavirus such as China and Italy.
“Returning residents and nationals from coronavirus affected countries will be subjected to self or institutional quarantine,” he said.
Mutharika said coronavirus should not be politicised and asked Malawians to pull in one direction to contain it.
“Spiritually, I call upon all Malawians of different denominations and faith to turn to God in times of fear and uncertainty as we do in times of joy and celebration,” he said.
The pandemic, with 66 000 confirmed deaths, has disrupted travel, business, industries social events and livelihoods globally.
Professor Adamson Muula, an epidemiologist from the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine, says there are a lot of basic preventive measures to learn before the novel virus reaches Malawi.
He explains: “The speed of spread of any other infectious disease varies according to many factors. Direct contact between people is one of the way scoronavirus is transmitted.
“So, for sure, close contact, handshakes, kissing and being close to people who are coughing or sneezing will spread the virus,” he says.
Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi chairperson Amos Nyaka, who is also an ophthalmologist at Kamuzu Central Hospital says the country has enough capacity to detect suspected cases and that there are about seven facilities set aside for quarantine.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :