Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda says the gazette of Covid-19 rules is not meant to punish Malawians but to help control further spread of the pandemic.
She was speaking yesterday when she, alongside other members of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, held a press briefing to announce the new Covid-19 rules.
Said Chiponda: “In order to win this fight against Covid-19, we need to stop or minimise the human-to-human transmission of the disease.
“In order to fight the virus, we need to collectively practise preventive and containment measures. Our daily involvement should be aimed at stopping the virus from spreading further and causing more damage in our country.”
She expressed worry at the local transmission rate, now at 60 percent of all registered cases, appealing to all Malawians to be part of the fight and to treat everyone as a potential carrier for the virus.
Added Chiponda: “The rules are not meant to punish people but to influence behavioral change which is key to fighting the pandemic. Other countries have managed to make strides in the fight because of behavioral change. Malawians should embrace these preventive measures.”
Her co-chairperson on the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Dr John Phuka, reiterated the need for Malawians to embrace behavioral change, saying it is key to winning the fight against Covid-19. He said rules are just there to help people conform.
Attorney General (AG)Chikosa Silungwe stressed that the rules are with effect from August 8 (Saturday) and everyone should follow them.
He said: “Government has come up with a special team to ensure compliance. The enforcers include community leaders, health officers, forestry officers, immigration officers, prison warder, road traffic officers, national parks and wildlife officers and police officers.”
On Friday, the minister, who is also the task force co-chairperson, gazetted Covid-19 rules which, among other things, have made use of masks in public places mandatory to control the spread of the pandemic.
In the new rules, public gatherings have also been limited to a maximum of 10 people, including places of worship.
“If places of worship have over 10 people, they are breaking the law. The places n
that number of people does not exceed 10,” said Silungwe. of worship should ensure
However, there is an exception for funerals where numbers are limited to 50 people, so too, the National Assembly and any meeting that has been convened to discuss Covid-19.
In the transport sector, vehicles and other modes of transport are limited to 60 percent of their normal capacity, passengers are to wear masks and ensure that they are sanitised.
On entertainment, bars will operate operate from 2pm to 8pm, and people will only be allowed to buy on a take-away basis. Restaurants and other food outlets are to ensure social distancing for customers and operate only between 6am and 9pm.
The AG also said the new rules give power to the Minister of Health to declare an area with high Covid-19 cases restricted.
In such areas, recreation centres, workplaces and other facilities will remain closed, and movement into and out of such areas will be restricted.
The regulations have come at a time the court is yet to make a ruling on a case in which concerned citizens and the Human Rights Defenders Coalition challenged a lockdown that n
earlier this year.government had announced
The applicants also challenged government on the decision to close places of worhip, and sought to have the court rule on whether it is right to have delegated registration effected without being tabled in Parliament.
But in an interview yesterday, Silungwe said the new guidelines have not violated the injunction.
He said: “The regulations have defined what is acceptable gatherings. They should not go beyond 10, religious or non-religious. If a church qualifies for a public gathering, they must not exceed 10 people. That is what those rules are saying.”
On the issue of delegated registration, the AG said it does not depend on Parliament to come into effect but presented in Parliament that such has been passed. Minister of Information Gospel Kazako said the fight against Covid-19 is not a political issue but a national one, urging all stakeholders to join hands in the fight.
“We all need to take part. Lives are being lost and if we don’t take part, we will lose more lives,” said Kazako.
Meanwhile, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi has expressed disappointment over the manner the new guidelines were announced, saying they were not consulted.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Catholic bishops however, urge their members to strictly adhere to the health and pastoral guidelines to prevent Covid-19 spread including regula hand washing, social distancing and using face masks.
Reads the statement in part: “We believe we still have a role to play in this regard. However, wesince we are law abiding, we the Catholic Bishops instruct all the clergy, the religious and the laity to suspendforthwithall public church gatherings until further notice.
“In the meantime, we shall engage governmentto see our true role in preventing the further spread of Covid-19.”
As of yesterday, Covid-19 had claimed 146 lives in the country from 4 658 total confirmed cases, of which 2 137 are active while 2 375 have recovered.