Malawi president outlines new COVID-19 measures amid lockdown injunction

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Students wash their hands before entering the library in Blantyre, Malawi, March 23, 2020. Malawi President Peter Mutharika has declared a state of national disaster in Malawi over COVID-19 and he has since ordered closure of all public and private schools, colleges and universities effective Monday. (Xinhua/Joseph Mizere)
Students wash their hands before entering the library in Blantyre, Malawi, March 23, 2020. Malawi President Peter Mutharika has declared a state of national disaster in Malawi over COVID-19 and he has since ordered closure of all public and private schools, colleges and universities effective Monday. (Xinhua/Joseph Mizere)

Malawi President Peter Mutharika has outlined new measures against COVID-19 in the country amid a court injunction over a 21-day lockdown.

Addressing the nation on Tuesday evening, Mutharika said he has restructured the Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus into the Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus and that the taskforce will be co-chaired by a cabinet minister and a professor in public health.

“The taskforce will directly report to me,” he said. “Below Presidential Taskforce, there remain various technical committees which include various professionals and sectors from both the public and private sectors.”

Malawi has reported 36 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three related deaths.

The government has opened institutional isolation centers and treatment centers in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu, Mutharika said.

His government has started recruiting 2,000 new nurses and clinical officers to start reporting for work in a week’s time and that 1,500 health surveillance assistants will also be recruited to intensify hygiene in the communities, the president said.

“Coming to the issue of the lockdown, this matter is before the courts. On our part, we will proceed to do what is necessary to save lives as circumstances warrant. For me, the right to life is supreme above all other rights,” Mutharika said.

He also announced the introduction of an Emergency Cash Transfer Program to serve small businesses in and around the country’s major markets in cities and other districts.

The program will be implemented for a period of six months and that each identified household will be paid electronically through mobile payments a sum of approximately 47 U.S. dollars a month, Mutharika said.

“In addition to Emergency Cash Transfers in the peri-urban areas, my government will also provide cash top-up to existing beneficiaries of Social Cash Transfer Program in all the 28 districts,” he said. Enditem

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