Malawi may not have recorded a positive case of Coronavirus—also known as Covid-19—that has brought the world to a standstill, but the country is feeling the impact of the pandemic so declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Travel restrictions have been imposed in the world’s desperate bid to contain Covid-19, which is rapidly killing thousands in both the developed and developing countries.
To keep Covid-19 in check, the Malawi Government announced several measures, including restrictions of gatherings of more than 100 people. This is part of the social-distancing drive being implemented worldwide.
The city councils have also imposed restrictions on social gatherings albeit with modified measures regarding wedding receptions, especially in Blantyre City where an initial blanket ban was revised 24 hours later.
In the same vein, I have noted commercial banks and other businesses employing similar social-distancing steps and other precautions, including provision of hand-washing facilities. Some commercial banks have gone a step further to spray sanitisers on automated-teller machines (ATMs).
However, it is the restrictions to the banking halls that is giving customers a raw deal as some of them have to endure standing in the sun outside the banks waiting for their turn to be served.
I commend the commercial banks for joining the fray in embracing the precautionary measures to avert a possible Covid-19 outbreak in the country. But I feel the banks can do better by, among others, providing chairs and some shed for customers queuing outside the banking halls. I feel this is not asking for too much as tents can be hired and mounted outside some of the banking halls. I feel this is a dignified way of doing business and serving customers better.
Malawi is a predominantly ‘cash society’. This makes bank notes a potential medium of transmission as bank notes can be easily contaminated in the course of exchanging hands. This should provide the banks an opportunity to heighten awareness on the use of electronic payment platforms such as point-of-sale devices and electronic transfers.
For the unbanked population, the electronic payments can be done in form of mobile money platforms. Here what comes to mind is TNM Mpamba and Airtel Money mobile wallets where one can make payment to a service provider even through the thousands of agents scattered across the country.
Malawi may not have recorded infections, but it is affected through international economics. For instance, the lockdown in South Africa technically brings all manner of economic activity to a standstill. Most major airlines have suspended flights and international meetings suspended until Convid19 is dealt with.
Recently, the African Development Bank (AfDB) projected Malawi’s economic growth to modestly rise to 5.2 percent in 2020 and 5.5 percent in 2021 from five percent in 2019 largely supported by prudent policies, improved external financing, favourable terms of trade and increased investments in connectivity infrastructure along major trade corridors.
However, if sentiments by International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva on Monday this week are anything to go by, the coronavirus pandemic will cause a global recession in 2020 that could be worse than the one triggered by the global financial crisis of 2008-09. The IMF projects the world economic output to recover in 2021.
Covid-19 is yet to be detected here, but it is important that everyone should play a part in taking steps to prevent and contain the outbreak. The WHO and the Ministry of Health are emphasising on personal hygiene with handwashing using soap as a critical strategy.
It is encouraging to note that several businesses, including small and medium enterprises and some social clubs, have embraced the handwashing concept by placing buckets of water with soap and sanitisers at the entry points to their premises. This culture should not stop with the disappearance of coronavirus from our midst. It should be the best practice for all and sundry. Prevention, they say, is better than cure. Be safe and healthy as researchers work to find the cure.