Do as we say, not as we do! This seems exactly what senior government officials, including President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima are telling Malawians in following measures aimed at containing further spread of Covid-19.
While Chilima has been criss-crossing the country to monitor projects and addressing people who gather in large numbers.Chakwera yesterday took his turn as he travelled up North, stopping five times to address thousands of his supporters.
However, experts have decried the situation as unbecoming of leaders who must lead Malawians in following the Covid-19 preventive measures, especially with fears of a third wave due to new cases in Salima, originating from India.
Chakwera, who has long preached on Covid-19 preventive measures, openly defied his own government’s rules as he held whistle-stop meetings at Lumbazi, Mponela, Kasungu, Jenda and Mzuzu Shopping Mall.
At all places, he was met with hundreds of people, exceeding the 250 number his own task force on Covid-19 prescribed.
While very few could be seen wearing masks, the majority had none.
Chilima, who has all this week been criss-crossing the country to monitor several projects and hold quarterly meetings with councils on reforms, has also on many occasions, been seen addressing mini-rallies, where Covid-19 rules were ignored.
This is happening at a time sporting and other activities are restricted to have 150 people for indoor and 250 for outdoor.
These preventive measures were announced on April 20 2021 by Health Minister Khumbidze Kandodo-Chiponda
On Thursday, State House press secretary Brian Banda, when asked how government will ensure that all Covid-19 measures are followed during the President’s whistle-stops, said: “District councils have Covid-19 protocols and will follow them as the President addresses the people.”
Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi yesterday said failure to observe preventive measures during political gatherings is retrogressive.
“Whatever is happening is not right. It continues to send the same mixed messages, where government tells people to gather in a certain number, and then you have these meetings where many people gather, without many observing measures.
“We commend government for doing a lot to contain the spread of the pandemic, but that should continue even during political gatherings. As we are approaching the third wave, we need to be more careful, we must follow all measures,” he said.
On his part, Physicians Assistants Union of Malawi president Solomon Chomba, described yesterday’s events as unfortunate and unbecoming of leaders.
He said: “Much as we appreciate that our Covid-19 positivity rate is significantly low, I feel with this prevailing fears and likelihood of Covid-19 third wave surge, our leaders could have led by example in the enforcement of Covid-19 preventive measures.”
Chomba said while there is relief on public gathering as announced by the Minister of Health, issues of social distancing, wearing of face masks and hand hygiene could have been enforced and prioritised by the leaders.
On his part, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe said government should always send an advance team to distribute masks and ensure that all measures are followed.
“Our message to all leaders is that for them to set a good example, they should be moving with masks. If physical distancing is compromised, masks become a-must.”
Cumulatively, Malawi had by Thursday recorded 34 151 cases, including 1 152 deaths, representing a case fatality rate of 3.37 percent. Of these cases, 2 168 are imported infections and 31 983 are locally transmitted.
The country reported its first three Covid-19 cases on April 2 2020, barely a fortnight after the World Health Organisation had declared Covid-19—which originated from Wuhan, China in December 2019—a global pandemic.