Government last night enforced Covid-19 restrictions, with the first target being bars forced to close at 8pm as per public health guidelines to tame the spread of the pandemic.
Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo-Banda said in an interview police will be patrolling the streets to crack down on imbibers, taking away their freedom to drink until dawn.
The development follows the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 announcement on Thursday, that it will enforce restrictions gazetted last year, to combat the rising cases of the virus.
The latest Public Health Institute of Malawi (Phim) daily Covid-19 update issued last night indicates that the Ministry of Health has recorded 8 306 confirmed cases, with 381 new cases and 12 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 220.
The task force’s new measures include, restricting public gatherings to 100, reducing by half passenger vehicles’ sitting capacity and requiring bottle stores to close at 8pm.
“From tonight, police will be patrolling the streets and drinking joints to ensure that there’s adherence to the rules. If people want to drink, they can buy the beer and take it home,” said Chimwendo-Banda.
He also disclosed that authorities will enforce use of masks in minibus and sanitisation of passengers.
But the minister said government will not immediately push the minibuses to reduce the sitting capacity.
“For now, they will be allowed to continue with the normal capacity,” said Chimwendo-Banda.
He warned that those who will be breaching the regulations will face the full force of the law.
“Let people get it clear. We are not trying to punish anyone. We just want to ensure that we control the spread of the virus,” said the minister.
The guidelines also make it mandatory for people to wear masks on streets and in public places.
While admitting that it will be tough to enforce this rule, Chimwendo Banda said they will move to ensure it is adopted by the citizenry.
“The good thing is that we have already seen some people wearing masks following a sharp rise in the cases,” he said.
Commenting on the latest figures, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr Charles Phuka said 12 is the highest number ever recorded in the country since the first case was recorded on April 2 2020.
“Today, our data also indicates that we have reached a record high of 381 new confirmed cases within 24 hours and the total number of cases has surpassed the 8 000 mark. The highest ever recorded in the first wave was 192, on July 11 2020.
“The admissions also are at the highest as 80 people are in our treatment units and we have also observed an increase in the number of people requiring Covid-19 testing because of having symptoms and or being contacts to the confirmed cases,” he said.
Phuka maintained that since the country is still experiencing community transmission of infection, it is important to regard everyone you meet as a potential carrier.
“This is why it is important that all people who are infected are identified by testing, isolated and, depending on the severity of their disease, receive medical care,” he said.
Despite the sharp rise in coronavirus cases, the Ministry of Education said it has not yet decided to close school as some quarters are fearing.
In a response to a questionnaire, Secretary for Education Chikondano Mussa explained: “We are closely monitoring the situation and working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
“Our decision-making will be based on professional advice from the public health experts. For now, the policy to have all schools open is what is in force.”
The spike in coronavirus spread has triggered calls for the public to adhere to the measures.
Former president Peter Mutharika wrote on his Facebook page: “I have been following the updates from the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. Covid-19 is real… I urge you my fellow countrymen to always make sure you mask up, avoid crowded places, sanitise and wash your hands regularly.”
United Democratic Front president Atupele Muluzi in a statement issued yesterday asked government to scale up coronavirus testing.
“We call on government to revise its National Response Strategy to consider increasing testing sites with testing kits across the country, enhanced public awareness, engagement, treatment and prevention to help manage the pandemic,” he said.