Malawi Police Service (MPS) yesterday embarked on a nationwide enforcement of Covid-19 preventive measures, especially wearing of face masks in public, in line with Public Health Guidelines amid a spike in cases.
In a statement released on Sunday and signed by National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera, the exercise, dubbed Operation Vala Mask, aims at ensuring that people adhere to rules that help to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Reads the statement in part: “Notable rules and regulations include wearing of masks in public places, closing of bars and bottle stores by 10pm, seating capacity of 50 percent in public transport and a curfew starting from 10pm to 6am.
“MPS, therefore, warns all those defying Covid-19 rules and regulations of arrest and subsequence prosecutions. Importantly, MPS assures Malawians of professionalism during the enforcement of the preventive measures and that people’s rights will be respected.”
In Blantyre, people took the police warning seriously as many put on face masks unlike in the previous weeks when they would freely walk in public without one.
At Chichiri Shopping Centre and shops around Ginnery Corner, consumers were seen wearing face masks and using hand sanitisers before entering shops.
However, at bus stages most commuters had to wait longer to board minibuses and taxis as operators adhered to 50 percent carrying capacity in line with the Covid-19 regulations.
In an interview, Southern Region Police spokesperson Ramsey Mushani welcomed the people’s response to the police call, but said there were still some who are defying the Covid-19 rules and regulations. The individuals, he said were being arrested.
“However, I cannot give the exact number of those arrested since reports start coming in the evening,” he said.
In Lilongwe, strict enforcement of the Covid-19 prevention measures under Operation Vala Mask began on a low note.
Some people were still seen moving around town and visiting shopping malls and fuel service stations without wearing masks.
However, Central Region Police spokesperson Alfred Chimthere assured that officers were on the ground to ensure that people adhere to the prevention measures.
He said: “So far no one has been arrested. But we are urging the public to be the first to protect themselves. They should not be wearing masks just because they have seen the police or because they are afraid of getting arrested.
“They should understand the pandemic is among us and we all need to take the responsibility in protecting ourselves.”
Chimthere emphasized that police in the region will ensure that people wear masks, bars are closed as directed, shops and other buildings have hand-washing facilities, and that gatherings do not exceed the stipulated number.
In Mzuzu, police had also not arrested anyone for contravening the Covid-19 rules and regulations and life was as usual even for taxi operators who flouted the rules and regulations by carrying to full capacity.
Taxis from Zolozolo to the city’s central business area were seen carrying five people as they have done in the past. While for M’chengautuba taxi ranks, they were seen carrying their normal capacity.
The police Operation Vala Mask comes amid a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country.
However, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) yesterday said while it welcomes the police initiative, it is coming late.
In an interview HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said the ‘strict’ enforcement of Covid-19 prevention measures should have started long time ago.
He said: “The police need to sustain the enforcement of the regulations, especially in the hot spots where there are gatherings. They must also step up efforts on civic education. We have not done well on this.”
Covid-19 has affected many people, including businesses resulting in company closures and loss of employment.