An inter-ministerial committee on coronavirus says it will ensure that the presidential directive on Covid-19 is adhered to in the interest of national security and safety.
On Friday, President Peter Mutharika declared a State of Disaster and made a number of orders, including restricting gatherings of people to less than 100 as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the deadly virus that has put nations across the globe under stress.
Speaking at a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday, members of the inter-ministerial committee called on Malawians to adhere to directives, saying every citizen ought to take responsibility in ensuring that the there is no spread of the virus.
The committee chairperson Dan Namarika, who is also Secretary for Health, said there is no need to panic as the country is set and ready to handle coronavirus.
He said, so far, they have stationed officers in strategic ports of entry into the country and over 500 people have been put under surveillance.
Namarika also clarified that they were encouraging self -quarantine to people who may have travelled to risky areas as a global best practice because putting these people under one facility would not be possible.
He also said those quarantined are people who have not shown signs and symptoms and those with symptoms are taken to treatment facilities.
Namarika said quarantining people in one place may also expose others to the virus assuming one of them had it.
He stressed that since last week, 10 people had been subjected to tests which have proved negative.
At the press conference, it was also learnt that the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has procured drones to monitor smuggling of goods and the same will be used to check illegal movement of people between countries.
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Principal Secretary Justin Saidi said he could not tell when schools will open as this will depend on the coronavirus situation in the country.
He said this also means that Primary School Leaving Certificate Education (PSLCE) examinations may not take place as scheduled and a new date will be communicated in future.
The committee members could not come out clearly on how government would control gatherings in markets and prisons, saying in case of markets where people exceed 100, they will have no choice but to close such except where a market has been subdivided into different sections, according to secretary for Trade and Industry Ken Ndala.
Ndala, however, indicated that some of these questions sit down and come up with measures on how to implement the presidential orders. He said business in places, including drinking joints where people gather in large number of more than 100, will have to be stopped for now. will require them to once again
On prisons, the committee said what is needed is for prisoners not get into contact with the virus without elaborating.
In a telephone interview yesterday, health activist Maziko Matemba said there is need to clearly define what the presidential directive mean on social distance.
He said it is not enough to advise people to avoid social distance or be in gatherings of less than 100.
Said Matemba: “Markets usually have people in large numbers. They could be divided groups, but the fact is that there are at one place.
“So, we needed to clearly define what constitutes social distance. In prisons, we also need strict measures like screening new prisoners and also subject visitors and prison warders to screening before having access to inmates.”
Department of Immigration and Citizenship director general Masauko Medi said they have requested extra funding to intensify border patrols to prevent unnecessary movement of people across borders.
Both neighbouring Zambia and Tanzania have recorded positive cases of coronavirus which makes Malawi more vulnerable.
Medi also said they have received advice from the Attorney General to apply to the court to grant a stay order on the court order that allowed four Chinese nationals to enter the country even when they are coming from a risky country.
He said they will challenge the court order in the interest of national security. “Let’s take this message seriously. Don’t wait for police to act. Each one of us can act responsibly; avoid places where large number of people,” he said.