Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has punched holes in the Covid-19 strategy outlined by President Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday, saying it does not say much on cushioning vulnerable communities.
In a statement issued yesterday, Nankhumwa, with the support of opposition political parties in the House, outlined a number of areas to be considered to mitigate the impact Covid-19 has on poor communities.
While commending Chakwera for taking bold steps in his new strategy to fight the pandemic, the estranged former Democratic Progressive Party vice-president (South) said government should provide safety nets to the most vulnerable and affected people.
Reads the statement in part: “I humbly commend President Chakwera for coming up with new measures for combating the new wave of Covid-19.
“Having been entrusted with the mantle of being your Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, I would like to urge President Chakwera to dig much deeper and do more to help cushion the suffering of millions of Malawians in light of the rising wave of Covid-19 infections.”
Nankhumwa further suggested that the Tonse Alliance administration should channel part of the K17.52 billion Covid-19 funds that the President announced towards cautionary mechanisms such as cash transfers for the ultra-poor to cushion them against the “extreme economic impact of Covid-19”.
He also tackled issues such as job losses and the folding up of small and medium enterprises as issues haunting the nation in the face of Covid-19 transmission.
In an interview yesterday, Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) acting executive director Bertha Phiri acknowledged the existing inequality gap that makes poor Malawians vulnerable to Covid-19 impacts.
However, she said her institution cannot comment on whether it is relevant that part of the K17.52 billion be channelled to cushionary measures such as social cash transfers.
Said Phiri: “What I know is that the President has directed that Treasury should release K17.2 billion to respond to the fight against Covid-19. Perhaps, Mejn could be more competent to comment if we were provided with a full breakdown of what goes into the K17.2 billion.”
Among others, Chakwera directed that part of the money should be used to recruit 1 380 health workers as well as transforming some public places into treatment centres.
Some of the places to be turned into temporary Covid-19 treatment centres include Zomba State House which shall be a 100-bed treatment centre, Blantyre Youth Centre which is earmarked for 200-beds and Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe which will cater for 300 beds.