Declaration of State of Disaster by Malawi President Peter Mutharika

Due to the threat of coronavirus and the urgent need to seriously manage it, I have decided to declare ‘ State of Disaster’ in the country.

Fellow Malawians

As most of you are aware, the world is experiencing a new health threat through the emergence of a new type of Coronavirus also called COVID-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared coronavirus a pandemic (a disease affecting the whole world).

So far, we know that the virus can be transmitted between human beings, and that its incubation period takes 2 to 10 days from infection with the virus, to the onset of symptoms.

Common symptoms of the Corona virus infection include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat and,
  • Difficulty in breathing

At present, no specific Off-the-Counter treatment or vaccine for Corona virus is available.

What hospitals can do is to support patients by relieving the symptoms while their bodies fight the infection naturally.

As we take every precaution, we must maintain our hope because according to health experts, 97% of patients infected by the Corona virus get well after medical interventions.

In the absence of vaccine and an Off-the-Counter treatment, raising awareness of the risk factors for the coronavirus infection and protective measures individuals can take is the only way to reduce human infection and death.

There are two myths that we need to be careful of about Corona virus:

  1. That black people are immune to the disease
  2. That the warm climate of Africa is protective against the virus

I strongly advise that you should disregard these myths and follow precautionary measures.

My fellow Malawians,

While scientists are conducting research to understand the virus better, my government on advice from our health experts is recommending the following precautionary measures.

  • Washing of hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
  • Stop handshakes
  • Maintain social distance with people;
  • Stop touching eyes, nose and mouth;
  • Practice cough hygiene by covering mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing;
  • Seek medical care whenever feeling unwell;

My Government, in the light of technical guidance from the World Health Organization, is implementing activities in preparation of the coronavirus outbreak.

The aim of these activities is to prevent coronavirus from being transmitted into Malawi and also to prepare the country to handle any case should a coronavirus case be diagnosed.

Among many interventions;

  • Government has developed a Response Plan. The total budget for this plan is about MK15 billion which is equivalent to US$20 million.
  • My Government has provided MK2.5 billion as immediate funding towards the Response Plan.
  • My Government appreciates the technical and financial support from development partners such as World Health Organization, Centre for Disease Control, Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization, Department for International Development (DfID) through UNICEF and the Global Fund have provided towards the coronavirus.
  • Despite my Government commitment and all donor support, there is still a gap. I, therefore, appeal for more support from the private sector and international community.
  • We are screening for Coronavirus on all travelers arriving in Malawi through our borders and International Airports.
  • Government is collaborating with WHO which is continuously monitoring the outbreak situation in all affected countries in order to guide our response.

My fellow Malawians,

At this juncture, I would like to assure the nation that the Malawi Government is doing everything possible to ensure that Coronavirus does not come into country.

Due to the threat of Coronavirus and the urgent need to seriously manage it, I have decided to declare ‘ State of Disaster’ in the country.

Consequently, Government is putting the following measures;

  1. Ministry of Health and Population is redeploying health personnel in all border posts and continue screening and surveillance of people in all entry points;
  2. Government has suspended hosting of international meetings and banned public servants from attending both regional and international meetings being hosted by affected countries. The ban has been extended to all people travelling on other government related activities such as sports;
  3. My Government is advising the general public to avoid non-essential travel to the affected countries;
  4. My Government has directed that all schools, colleges (including technical colleges), both public and private universities should be closed by Monday , 23rd March, 2020;
  5. My Government is restricting public gatherings to less than 100 people forthwith. This restriction applies to all gatherings including weddings, funerals, church, congregations,rallies, government meetings etc; The national security apparatus has being ordered into action to enforce these restrictions.
  6. My Government has banned travel of foreign nationals from countries highly affected by coronavirus disease. However, SADC countries are exempted. Returning residents and nationals from coronavirus affected countries will be subjected to self or institutional quarantine;
  7. Government will continue to monitor and review the situation and the restrictions from time to time within the next 30 days;
  8. My Government has temporarily suspended issuance of visa to citizens of countries highly affected by coronavirus;
  9. My Government will continue to provide updates on the disease and the restrictions imposed.

My government is aware that some of the interventions being implemented have a negative bearing on people’s right to enjoy some of their human rights enshrined in our Constitution such as the right to assemble, the right to movement, and the right to participate in economic activities.

My government is hoping that in pursuance of the greater national good, we will be able to reasonably limit such rights within what is attainable in our Constitutional framework.

It is my sincere hope that my colleagues on the political divide will tame their appetite to politicize the fight against Corona Virus. I have noted some unfortune remarks from some political leaders on the fight against Corona virus. I hope it was just a temporary error of judgment. Corona Virus is not a joking matter.

The coronavirus threat demands that we all join hands and pull in one direction for us to win. Lets not politicize it.

Let me also speak to individuals that are using the Corona virus threat and the social media for political reasons and to express their personal hate.  Stop creating panic. Stop spreading rumors on the virus. Your actions are frustrating the fight against the Corona Virus.  Love your county. Be humane.

Spiritually, I call upon all Malawians of different denominations and faiths to turn to God in times of fear and uncertainty as we do in times of joy and celebration.

Let’s join together as we pray for God’s heart of love, mercy, and truth to dwell in us and show us how to face the challenges posed by coronavirus.

Let’s find comfort in God’s word from 2 Chronicles 7:14… and it reads….

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’’.

We should not panic.  Let us all unite in Prayer of faith to a God that answers prayer. With spiritual grace and scientific resilience, together, we shall overcome this epidemic.

In conclusion, Malawi realizes that we are in a global world where the impact of coronavirus can spill-over within the region and beyond.

Therefore, I would like to reiterate my appeal to the private sector, development partners and you my fellow citizens for more support towards the fight against coronavirus and its impact on the economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.

Speech by
Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika
President of the Republic of Malawi
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Food Programme
World Health Organization