As the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in early January this year raged, President Lazarus Chakwera was largely out of sight, raising questions of whether he had what it takes to lead the country out of the health crisis he inherited mid last year.
And his first attempt at showing leadership during a national address in mid January attracted criticism for its lack of concrete actionable plan.
In his second address in as many days two weeks ago, he laid down a strategy that was well received although doubts lingered among his critics on whether he would follow through.
Yesterday, he rose to the occasion, using the presidential podium to demonstrate the Covid-19 response plan he announced two weeks ago is being strictly implemented— with demonstrable results.
And in sharing the limelight with his top two health experts on the pandemic— Secretary for Health Charles Mwansambo and Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson John Phuka—the President also telegraphed to Malawians the importance of listening to health professionals to beat a pandemic that has killed 508 Malawians as of yesterday, representing a case fatality rate of 2.6 perdcent. experts on the pandemic—
Since declaring a State of National Disaster about two weeks ago and drafting in Vice- President Saulos Chilima to lead a review of Covid-19 measures and reposition the response, the fight against the pandemic has gained momentum.
So far, the Ministry of Finance has released K17.52 billion for the public health system to effectively respond to the new wave of infections and hospitalisations even as private citizens and organisations independently raise funds and pour into the public health system.
Some of the money, said the President, is being used to buy 100 tanks of oxygen, 100 flow meters and 1 000 cylinders— crucial equipment for those in critical conditions.
Funds have also been transferred to 10 clusters essential to the fight against the pandemic: Health, Education, Information, Water Development, Lands, Police Service, Prison Service, National Intelligence, Irrigation as well as Gender and Social Welfare.
The President also announced that government will subsidise maize i n A g r i c u l t u r a l Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) markets as a social protection measure to ensure people whose incomes have been hit hard by the pandemic can afford food.
Speaking at the same event, Mwansambo provided a detailed progress report on what has been achieved since the President’s last address, including construction of makeshift hospitals and in some cases—such as the emergency hospital at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe—are nearing completion.
He also said the ministry was working on recruitment of health workers as announced after Treasury released K1.8 billion for the initiative.
Mwansambo added that construction of the 300-bed emergency hospital at Bingu Stadium would be complete by
January 29 this year. Stadium would be complete by
According to the plan announced by the President last week, a total of K17.5 billion will be spent across various public sector clusters that are part of the Covid-19 response while Treasury will inject K100 million into hospitals run by Christian Health Association of Malawi to support payment of health workers.
The bulk of the expenditure will be channelled towards meeting identified urgent priorities; managing the surge of recent hospitalisations, providing emergency care to the critically sick, tracking the spread of the pandemic through testing and tracing, recruiting additional medical personnel, procuring medical recruitments and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the President yesterday commended several Malawian institutions and private citizens for initiatives to support government to fight the pandemic and said he had ordered the presidential taskforce to engage the various initiatives for better coordination to avoid redundancy.
Chakwer a speci f ical ly commended the efforts of the Society of Medical
Doctors, the Covid Response by Private Citizens and another initiative providing frontline health workers with food on a daily basis.
Said the President: “I have singled out these initiatives from other equally impactful acts of generosity because these ones are examples of Malawians doing sacrificial things for their own country.
“Let us all be part of such initiatives, for they add value to government interventions that are funded by your taxes. I thank those leading these initiatives for responding to the needs and my call for all hands-on deck. Just because government has rolled out a response worth billions does not mean a response worth millions is not needed. We are in this together.”
Chakwera also used the podium during a prime time address to let Phuka share critical information on prevention and management of the disease, among other helpful tips to the public.