Malawi government has outlined strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people and that Police and local authorities will have powers to disperse gatherings and wearing face masks is one mandatory in public places in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
Announcing the new rules at a news conference in Lilongwe on Sunday morning, Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe said with effect from August 8 2020, pubs will open from 2pm to 8pm on takeaway basis and so too restaurants.
Silungwe said the rules have been guided by public health experts.
“What these rules have done is to convert those measures into legal framework, for purposes of enforcement,” said the Attorney General.
Other steps include barring traffic police from touching a driver’s license or any other documents.
All markets, shops and businesses that are in close proximity to hospitals have been ordered to close.
The government also has banned public gatherings, such as weddings, parties and bridal showers. But funerals attended by immediate family members – n0t more than 50 people -are allowed.
The restrictions come as Malawi continues to confirm increasing cases of Covid-19, with an average of 100 cases per day. As of Saturday, Malawi had registered 4,575 coronavirus cases with 137 deaths.
Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda has expressed worry over the local transmission of Covid-19 which is now at over 60%.
The Minister has called on Malawians to follow preventive measures that government has put in place to fight Covid-19 saying there is need for everyone to take responsibility in fighting the virus pandemic.
Chiponda said “everyone should be treated as a potential carrier for Covid-19 and there is need to avoid social gatherings, wash hands frequently, wear masks and observe social distance.”
The news conference was addressed by Chiponda along with the Presidential task force on Covid-19 co-chair John Phuka, Attorney General Silungwe and Minister of Information Gospel Kazako addressing the media on the rules that government has gazzeted to fight Covid-19 which came into effect on August 8.
Health activist Maziko Matemba has since asked government to consider cushioning vulnerable families with reusable face masks in order for the country to win the battle against novel coronavirus.
“So having gazetted the laws to help contain further spread of COVID-19 pandemic, there is need for the government to support vulnerable families to access some essential commodities like cloth face masks and soaps for them to follow measures as gazetted.
“Government needs to seriously consider in the next budget that vulnerable groups are caushioned by among others removing tax on cloth used to make face masks. This can help to reduce prices of these essential materials for fighting COVID-19,” said Matemba.
Meanwhile, government already had signed a memorandum of understanding with local mask manufacturers to start distributing free masks to those who cannot afford them.
In the meantime, Phuka said, law enforcement officers have been given permission to use “reasonable force” to enforce compliance.
Those found without masks will be fined K10,000 or three months in prison.