President Chakwera declares State of National Disaster following the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed lives of two Cabinet Ministers

All National Flags to fly at half mast

* Three-day period of national mourning

* Former President Peter Mutharika, Leader of Opposition Nankhumwa send condolences

By Duncan Mlanjira

President Lazarus Chakwera has exercised his powers as vested in him under the Constitution to declare a State of Disaster following the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed close to 50 lives including that of two Cabinet Ministers.

Late Sidik Mia

The President has also declared a three-day period of mourning and that all National Flags must fly at half mast in respect to the passing on of Sidik Mia (Minister of Transport and Public Works as well as Malawi  Congress Party (MCP) Vice-president); Lingson Belekanyama (Minister of Local Government and Rural Development) as well as the others that have died since New Year’s Day.

Chakwera described the current state of affairs over this silent enemy as the darkest hours in the history of the country, saying the loss of these two senior Cabinet Ministers was incalculable.

Minister of Local Government late Belekanyama

He has thus instructed the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to an emergency meeting to evaluate the enforcement of the COVID-19 measures in view of the declaration of the State of Disaster and establish methods that can further be done in the renewed fight against the pandemic.

He also said he will be consulting with the Defence and National Security Council of Parliament for possible approach towards declaring a State of Emergency.

Information Ministry PS late Kantchentche

All this, the President said, was to develop a strong strategy to fight the pandemic that has hit the country very hard in the past 11 days — following the relaxation of the preventive measures the government had set up last year but were relaxed when efforts were being done to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

He reiterated his earlier plea to the public that “this silent enemy” can be defeated if, together, people follow all the preventive measures as well as adhering to movement restrictions that are in place.

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He said as a nation “we simply cannot afford to let this virus advance any further and must stop it in its tracks and stop it from conducting yet another crusade of death in our midst”.

Meanwhile, former President Peter Mutharika has said he and the former First Lady are saddened by the untimely demise of Belekanyama and Mia and his condolences go to President Chakwera, the entire Cabinet, the bereaved families and Malawi as a whole.

Former President Mutharika

“The former First Lady and I wish to share with the entire nation that in difficult times as we are passing through, it is important to hold hands despite our differences. Together we can defeat this common enemy that is among us.

“Let me at this time suggest to the leadership and my fellow citizens, that we make the necessary tough decisions that can save ourselves and our nation.

“Above all, we pray to God for his healing hand and mercy to take us through this trying period. May God heal our country.”

Leader of Opposition Nankhumwa

Leader of Opposition Nankhumwa has also sent a message of condolence to President Chakwera on the loss of the two who who died just hours between each other.

The two have also lost the battle to COVID-19 just not more than 24 hours after the death of Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Ernest Kantchentche on Monday.

Nankhumwa described this development as “a tragedy that has befallen our nation”.

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“Indeed, Malawi has lost two most humble and hard working politicians whose selfless contribution to the political, social and economic development of this country cannot go unnoticed. May their souls rest in peace.

“Similarly, let me pay my personal respect to over 200 Malawians who have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started. I wish to convey my deepest condolences to their families and friends for their sad loss.

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“One of the best ways to honour these departed COVID-19 victims is not to relent, as a nation, in our collective struggle and effort to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.”

Nankhumwa then said he joins President Chakwera in reminding Malawians that “the Coronavirus is still out there and that we need not be complacent”.

“Let us all continue to wear face masks, washing our hands regularly, observing social distance and using sanitizers.

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“I also wish to convey my best wishes to all Malawians, including cabinet ministers, who have tested positive for COVID-19. I wish them a speedy recovery.

“The Holy Bible speaks of miraculous healing through Jesus Christ and faith in God. The Almighty God always provides comfort and healing for us all.

“In conclusion, I wish to commend frontline soldiers against COVID 19, the health workers, for their hard work and dedication to duty as they continue saving lives and helping the country to ‘flatten the curve’.”

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