President Peter Mutharika has positively responded to critics’ of his administration’s novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic response strategy by forming an inclusive Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus.
In a 15-minute televised address titled Statement on Coronavirus Measures Updates monitored on public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Television last night, the President said the task force replaces the Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 that has recently come under fire for alleged shortfalls in communicating critical technical health issues.
Said Mutharika: “Lastly, I direct government to restructure what we have so far called the Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus.
“From now, it will be called the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus. This task force will be co-chaired by a Cabinet minister and a professor in public health. The task force will directly report to me.”
Besides professors and medical doctors from the University of Malawi, included in the task force, according to the president, are Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lobin Lowe, Public Affairs Committee chairperson Monsignor Patrick Thawale, a senior chief, civil society organisations (CSOs) representative and the Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham).
Mutharika said technical committees comprising various professionals from both the private and public sectors will be below the Presidential Task Force.
The President’s restructuring of the Cabinet Committee comes barely three days after his estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima on Sunday dared him to demonstrate leadership in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic by bringing on board all stakeholders to be part of an inclusive national response.
Said Chilima: “In that way, a clear message will be sent to every Malawian out there that we are in this together and that whatever steps and measures we will be taking will be driven for the common good.”
Thirty CSOs in the health sector also petitioned Minister of Health Jappie Mhango, who chaired the Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus, also proposed a National Covid-19 Response Committee comprising various stakeholders, including the Executive, Judiciary, Parliament, CSOs, traditional leaders, the clergy and opposition political parties.
On the abortive lockdown which faced spontaneous resistance from the public nationwide and its implementation was stopped by a court order, the President said while the matter is in court, his administration will proceed with necessary steps to save lives as circumstances warrant.
He said: “For me, the right to life is supreme above all other rights.”
Mutharika said government will, therefore, proceed to restrict a precautionary measure to control the spread of Covid-19. movement of people as The President also announced Emergency Cash Transfer Programme to serve small-scale businesses in and around major markets in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba, Mzuzu and other places. He said the programme is expected to support Malawians dependent on the markets for survival.
Ironically, anti-lockdown protests started on April 17, a day before the planned roll-out of the 21-day lockdown, from markets across some major urban centres.
Mu t h a r i k a s a i d government is targeting 172 000 households around the areas as beneficiaries. Over a period of six months—three months of response and another three of recovery— beneficiary households will be paid K35 000 monthly through mobile money. The amount is based on the prevailing government minimum wage.
In the address, the President also condemned politicisation of the Covid-19 response and urged Malawians to embrace precautionary measures.
Mutharika also applauded healthcare workers for their sacrifice and development partners for supporting the cause.
In 26 days, Malawi has recorded 36 positive cases of Covid-19, including five recoveries and three deaths.