Public Affairs Committee (PAC) says relaxation in the enforcement of guidelines to contain further spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is due to President Peter Mutharika’s failure to empower the new task force on the outbreak.
The quasi-religious group observed that precautionary measures put in place by the disbanded Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19, which included a proposed 21-day lockdown and a ban on gatherings, were political; hence, the need for the new multi-sectoral committee to come in and work professionally.
In an interview yesterday, PAC sp o ke s p e r s o n Bishop Gilford Matonga expressed worry with the President’s silence on the new committee, urging him to rise to the occasion by empowering the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus to take control.
He said: “The new committee has not started working. It has not made any statement and we continue listening to the same former chairperson who is a Cabinet minister [Minister of Health Jappie Mhango].
“There is no professional response. The co-chair of the new committee has said nothing and that continues to give a grey cloud on the whole concept of dealing with Covid-19.
“We would want to see that all necessary steps have been taken in order to make sure that this committee works. Terms of reference must be given, must be given an audience with the President who must tell them what is expected of them because by delaying this, we are putting lives at risk.”
Matonga said PAC wants the new committee to start working by putting in place restrictions after the lockdown failed and not the current situation where people are left guessing.
Despite social distancing measures restricting gatherings of more than 100, from last week political leaders, including the President, have been interacting with hundreds of their supporters in apparent demonstration of power play.
During presentation of nomination papers for the July 2 fresh presidential election, thousands joined the politicians in parades in Blantyre.
While the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says it is praying to God to protect Malawi, UTM Party is questioning the emphasis on Covid-19 and government spokesperson Mark Botomani says it is “almost inevitable” to break some of these rules during campaign.
Yesterday, DPP spokesperson Nicholas was elusive when asked why his party continues to defy Covid-19 measures put in place by government. spokesperson Nicholas Dausi
He said: “We will continue asking our supporters to observe social distance at all time. We are also praying to God that he should spare us and protect us from this terrible disease.”
UTM Party spokesperson Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said while they are encouraging people to follow the set guidelines, emphasis on Covid-19 was overshadowing other health challenges.
He said social distancing on Covid-19 is just one measure; hence, the need to employ all others measures if this one fails.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leaders could not be reached for comment.
However, the party’s president Lazarus Chakwera, addressing the nine-party Tonse Alliance rally in Mzuzu on Sunday, accused government of failing to manage the Covid-19 pandemic by not closing the borders.
Presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Botomani, who is Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, acknowledged lapses in observation of preventive measures.
He said: “We have not relaxed the measures. We still stand by what we put across. The new committee will have to review the measures, to study the environment and see the kind of advice they can provide, but as we stand today, the measures remain in force.”
Malawi has 57 confirmed cases since the first three cases were reported on April 2.