The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has intensified the fight against the pandemic by invoking public health guidelines, including restrictions on opening and closing times for bars and seating capacity in public transport.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe yesterday, Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, who is also co-chairperson of the task force, expressed worry that lives are at risk and that rising cases of Covid-19 were exerting pressure on health facilities.
She said the rising cases have seen the country exhausting 50 percent of isolation facilities space.
The minister said: “The [public health] preventive measures were already gazetted and we will now ensure that they are enforced.
“We are in touch with our colleagues from Ministry of Local Government and Ministry of Homeland Security to help in enforcement.”
The public health guidelines include mandatory wearing of face masks in public places, restrictions in opening and closing of social joints to between 2pm and 8pm, and no consumption of beer within premises of drinking joints.
Other mandatory measures include placing of hand washing facilities and sanitisers in public places such as shops, offices, markets and churches, reduction by half in seating capacity of public transport vehicles, observing social distance in gatherings, burying of dead bodies within 24 hours and a ban on preparation of communal food during funerals and other gatherings.
Chiponda said government will open more testing centres and employ more health workers to serve more people.
During the briefing, she assured that the country has enough Covid-19 test kits that can run for two to three months; hence, people should not panic.
On his part, Ministry of Local Government Principal Secretary Charles Kalemba stressed that preventive measures will be enforced in all places and gatherings, including funeral ceremonies.
He asked traditional leaders to help in ensuring that people observe preventive measures during funerals.
“For funerals, the remains are to buried within 24 hours to avoid keeping people in one place for a long time. Preparation of communal food at funerals has been banned,” Kalemba said.
He said his ministry will also ensure that markets are not congested and that they are fumigated on a weekly basis.
Ministry of Homeland Security Principal Secretary Kennedy Nkhoma called on minibus operators and other operators in public transport service to observe the carrying capacity prescribed to avert the crisis.
He said the recent fuel pump price hike should not be an excuse to risk people’s lives.
Nkhoma said: “Lives are more important than fuel. So, the cost of fuel should not be a reason to risk lives.”
Malawi now has 1100 active Covid-19 cases from less than 100 three weeks ago.
In a related development, the
has overwhelmed Mzuzu Central Hospital in terms of space for admissions, prompting authorities to expedite renovations of the isolation centre previously earmarked for Ebola response.
In the meantime, the hospital has turned its One Stop Centre into Covid-19 treatment room while arranging to admit Covid-19 patients in its Tuberculosis (TB) ward projected to be ready next Tuesday, according to hospital director Frank Sinyiza.
He said the One Stop Centre has eight beds while the TB ward has 32.
Meanwhile, St Pius X Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Blantyre has suspended its morning mass gatherings for the next two days because the church has been fumigated after two priests and a nun tested positive to Covid-19.
The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has since emphasised the need for all Catholics to strictly adhere to Covid-19 preventive measures in their gatherings.
In an interview yesterday, ECM general secretary Father Henry Saindi said the church will continue with its Sunday prayers which will strictly follow government set guidelines on Covid-19 preventive measures.
He said: “We will allow 100 congregants only.” Concurring with Saindi, Evangelical Association of Malawi general secretary the Reverend Francis Mkandawire said its member churches will be guided by experts’ views.
“Government has set 100 as a maximum number of congregants; we are encouraging our members to adhere to these government regulations,” he said.
By yesterday, Malawi recorded 274 new positive Covid-19 cases, including four new deaths, according to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. The figure represents yet another record after the 227 recorded on Wednesday.