Speech by Minister of Health’s on additional measures on COVID-19

Today, I am here to announce a lock down pursuant to section 31 of the same Act to contain the further spread of the deadly virus.

You will recall that His Excellency the President created a Special Cabinet Committee on coronavirus on 7th March, 2020.

The Committee was given specific Terms of Reference that entailed provision of policy guidance and overseeing across-Government response to the threat posed by coronavirus in the country.

Major sequence of events for our national response to the coronavirus pandemic have been as follows: –

  • Declaration of State of Disaster by His Excellency the President on 20th March, 2020 pursuant to Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act (Cap 33:05 of the Laws of Malawi)
  • Declaration of the Corona Virus Disease as a formidable Disease on 1st April, 2020 pursuant to the Public Health Act (Cap 34:01 of the Laws of Malawi) in my capacity as Minister of Health

Since its establishment and within its broad mandates, the Committee has tirelessly engaged relevant sectors to come up with proactive measures at first to prevent COVID 19 from being imported into the country.

You will also recall unlike most countries including those surrounding us, Malawi only confirmed its first three cases at the beginning of April, 2020. This necessitated our immediate response because we had to think of not only preventive measures but also containment and case management strategies.

This is where we are at the moment. The pandemic continues to hit all countries including Malawi very hard. In our case as I reported yesterday through a press conference, the number of confirmed cases has risen from 3 on April, 2 to 19 as I speak today. Two lives have been lost in the process.

As I have also said before, Corona Virus is highly infectious. Last week and specifically on 9th April, 2020, I announced Public Health (CORONA Virus Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules, 2020 in my capacity as Minister of Health and pursuant to the Public Health Act.

Under this law, Section 31 stipulates that, where there is a pandemic or epidemic, the Minister of Health may make rules to regulate the response to contain the pandemic.

By announcing these measures, I added a legal impetus to our ongoing efforts to prevent, contain and manage coronavirus which is wreaking havoc globally.

We had to take a close, long and hard look at what is happening around us and make hard but yet helpful decisions that will curb the spread of this deadly virus.

The more we wait to take action, the more the spread because there is now local transmission in the country.

Today, I am here to announce a lock down pursuant to section 31 of the same Act to contain the further spread of the deadly virus.

The lockdown will restrict the movement of people in order to minimize the spread of the virus. Several countries including those near us have already imposed lock downs which seemingly has worked in curtailing new infections.

The lockdown shall take effect on the expiry of 18th day of April, 2020 and run for a period of 21 days until the midnight of the 9th day of May, 2020.

In summary, the lockdown will be guided by the regulations that have been gazetted by Government on 9th April, 2020. The following will apply during the lockdown: –

  1. The lockdown shall apply to all districts of Malawi.
  2. The following persons shall be exempted from the application of the lockdown measures
    • Enforcement officer as defined under the Public Health (Corona Virus Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules 2020
    • A person with a permit to supply essential services as provided under Part 1 of the Schedule to the Public Health (Corona Virus Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules 2020
  3. During the lockdown, persons providing essential services as listed under Part 1 of the Schedule to the Public Health (Corona Virus Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules 2020 shall be allowed to operate in accordance to the Rules and these measures.
  4. All essential services shall be obtained within the locality of residence.
  5. Councils shall identify and licence persons for supply of essential goods and services to locality markets and shops.
  6. Any person desirous of getting an essential service out of his or her locality shall get a permit from the local government authority or any delegated person to issue such permits by the local government authority. In the same vein, any person desirous of getting an essential service out of his or her district of residence shall get a permit from the Chief Executive Officer or District Commissioner of the local government authority.
  7. Except for enforcement officers, no person shall be allowed to leave their homes unless they are listed under Rule 11(3)(a)(i) of the Public Health (Corona Virus Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules 2020.
  8. All central markets shall be closed. Notwithstanding the generality of the preceding measure, local markets within localities shall remain open from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm on any day.
  9. Local government authorities shall designate areas as localities for purposes of implementing these measures.
  10. During the lockdown all non-essential businesses or services will be suspended pursuant to these measures and Regulation 13(2) of the Business Licensing Regulations. For purposes of these measures, essential goods and services are those listed in Part 1 and 2 of the Schedule to the Public Health (Corona Virus Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules 2020. Notwithstanding the listed services under the Schedule to the Rules, filling stations shall be treated as an essential service under these measures.
  11. The persons to perform an essential service or supply essential goods shall be given a permit by the District Commissioner or the Chief Executive Officer of the Council of the area.
  12. A person performing an essential service may be screened by an enforcement officer as defined in the Public Health (Corona Virus Prevention, Containment and Management) Rules.
  13. Any person who breaches these measures commits an offence and shall be liable to a fine as prescribed under the Public Health Act.

The specific guidelines regulating the lockdown will be made available from tomorrow, Wednesday, through the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and other Radios as well as TVs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to urge members of the public to refer to the Rules for more information. These will be reviewed as and when need arises.

At this point, let me handover to you, Your Excellency in case you have any remarks to make.

Speech by
Author
Jappie Mhango
Minister of Health, Malawi Government
UN entities involved in this initiative
WHO
World Health Organization