Ministry of Health (MoH) has cautioned Malawians to strictly follow Covid-19 precautionary measures despite a decline in new cases to protect themselves from an impending fourth wave of the pandemic.
MoH spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said this in an interview last week in reaction to The Nation observations that most people have relaxed on following the precautionary measures such as washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser, wearing face masks and social distancing.
He said: “If we want to protect Malawi from an impending fourth wave of Covid-19, we need to faithfully and strictly follow the restrictions that were gazette, and announced by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.”
Chikumbe said any person breaching the set precautionary measures is effectively breaking the law and risk prosecution.
He said: “We urge the public to comply with the gazetted restrictions regardless of the type of gathering they are in. We further urge the public to get vaccinated against the disease.”
Despite public and private sector institutions providing hand-washing facilities, many people do not use them. To date, it is mostly hospitals, commercial banks and major supermarkets which are strictly adhering to ensuring that people getting in have their hands sanitised.
Spot-checks in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu established that many people were roaming the streets without wearing face masks.
At the weekend, Malawi hosted two major festivals—Love Malawi Festival in Blantyre and Sand Music Festival in Mangochi. Most of the patrons at the two events were also seen without face masks while physical distancing was non-existent. The gatherings also had more than the 250 patrons maximum for outdoor events as recommended by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
It is also business as usual during campaign for the October 26 2021 by-elections in Nkhotakota North East, Dedza Central East and Mzimba East constituencies and Chimwalire Ward in Balaka South Constituency.
In a telephone interview, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) director of campaign Moses Kunkuyu said the party budgeted for personal protective equipment (PPE) for its supporters during the campaign period.
But during the party’s campaign rallies, images are seen of patrons not wearing face masks or observing physical distancing.
In a separate interview, UTM Party spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo said the party will not be holding mass rallies. He said instead, they will be doing “small group discussions”.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Shadreck Namalomba said his party will follow all protocols as announced by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
In a separate interview, public health expert Dr Titus Divala said the battle against Covid-19 has from the beginning been marred by political hypocrisy.
“The amount of effort our politicians put into getting elected is similar to what we need to get Covid-19 information disseminated, the understanding of the disease burden and the lack of treatment recognised and indeed the vaccine uptake increased,” he said.
Divala said such gatherings spread the virus, adding that it is where even most misinformation is spread, consequently causing deaths.
University of Malawi political analyst Ernest Thindwa said in an interview that political parties hold the key to fighting the pandemic.
He said: “Until the political establishment, particularly the leadership, openly condemns such irresponsible acts and publicly instructs appropriate agencies to enforce measures, political actors have unrestrained incentives to continue disregarding set restrictions.”
Last month, Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda announced that indoor gatherings can now have 100 people from 50 and 250 people for outdoor activities.
The minister, who is also co-chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, also announced the lifting of the ban of political party rallies.
Data from the Public Health Institute of Malawi (Phim) shows that the positivity rate is currently at 2.6 percent, a decrease from 4.8 percent in the previous week.
On the other hand, the case fatality ratio is at 3.7 percent while the recovery rate is at 88.9 percent.
Malawi recorded its first Covid-19 cases on April 2 2020.