Malawi has listed a lockdown among potential new measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) with the country reporting 16 positive cases and two deaths.
In an interview yesterday, Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said the measures were published in the Malawi Government Gazette, the official publication for developments in the public sector, last week.
He said the Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus developed the guidelines.
But Malango could not be drawn into clarifying the type of lockdown—whether full or partial—Malawi could implement, stating that the Cabinet committee would give the nation an update today.
In government notice number five of the Malawi Gazette Supplement dated April 9 2020, Minister of Health Jappie Mhango, who also chairs the Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus, said the new measures would include lockdown, compulsory testing and detention as well as restriction on public entertainment.
Reads the notice in part: “In exercise of powers conferred by Section 31 of the Public Health Act and pursuant to my declaration of the coronavirus disease as a formidable disease on the 1st day of April 2020, I, Jappie Chancy Mtuwa Mhango, Minister of Heath, make the following rules … 5. Certification of certain enforcement officers … 11. Lockdown.”
Reacting to the proposed measures, notably the lockdown, Sunduzwayo Madise, dean of law at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, observed that the notices the minister has published are subsidiary or secondary legislation while primary legislation is the Public Health Act.
He said Covid-19 is a serious issue demanding action from the President and not rules by a Cabinet minister.
Writing on his Facebook page, he said: “Currently, the right law to deal with such drastic measures is a declaration of State of Emergency by the President under the Constitution, not rules made by a minister. This is a serious issue which needs the full power of the law in dealing with it.”
Commenting on the possible lockdown, Chancellor College economics professor Ben Kaluwa said a lockdown would paralyse the country’s economy.
He said: “We have seen lockdowns paralysing economy in Italy, China and other countries and this cannot spare Malawi. Think about our agro-based economy. Think about small and medium scale businesses which most people don’t do savings.
“Poverty is also associated with inability to save. This means the majority will suffer because there will be no businesses.”
Lockdowns implemented as a Covid-19 preventive measure have been effected in countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Uganda. Kenya also had a lockdown. In most cases, the countries have been effecting a 21-day lockdown that sees all businesses, except those classified as essential services, closed.
Movement of people and traffic is also restricted.
Covid-19 has rapidly spread from China to European countries and the United States of America, and recently it has been reported in 46 African countries, Malawi. n