President Chakwera includes himself as to blame in relaxation of COVID-19 preventive measures

Chakwera met Madonna without wearing masks and did not observe social distance

* During the festive season over the last few weeks, many of us relaxed our vigilance against the virus

* Many of us are back to the old ways of not wearing masks

* Now we are paying the price as COVID-19 pandemic is on the loose again

By Duncan Mlanjira

In his radio address to the nation on Sunday, President Lazarus Chakwera included himself as one to blame for the country’s general relaxation in the adherence to the COVID-19 preventive measures that has seen the country being hit severely by the second wave of the pandemic.

Going into December, the total number of active cases was slightly over 30 but on New Year’s Day, the total active cases were at 604 and has since increased to 2,067 within 9 days.

In his address, the President took cognizance that the virus is  spreading again, and it is taking lives again as just on Saturday, there were 12 deaths, bringing the total number since January 1 to over 30.

“We need to get our act together as a nation and take a stand against this enemy,” Chakwera said. “During the festive season over the last few weeks, many of us relaxed our vigilance against the virus, and now we are paying the price.

Saturday’s situation report

“We are paying the price because many of us are back to the old ways of not wearing masks. Many of us are back to the old ways of not maintaining our distance from others. Many of us are back to the old ways of not washing our hands regularly.

“When I say many of us, I am including myself and all of us who are working in government. But our collective relaxation against the virus needs to end with immediate effect.

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

This sent wrong signals

On New Year’s Day, Chakwera posted on his Facebook wall a picture of his meeting with global pop diva, Madonna at Kamuzu Palace with a message: “Madonna came by to say hello today. It was good to hear the progress of her charity work in Malawi.”

But the post was condemned by the public as the two did not wear masks and did not observe social distance and were seen through a video clip open hand-shaking.

Members of the public quickly condemned the President, saying he should have observed social distance and mask up especially when meeting someone from COVID-19 hotspot countries.

Other commentators said Madonna shouldn’t have been given such preferential treatment that as soon as she arrived she was granted audience with the President, saying she should have been in quarantine for the required period set by the Malawi government.

Madonna posing inside Kamuzu Palace

In the past 24 hours of Saturday, Malawi has registered another record high at 381 new cases, 12 new deaths bringing the total active cases at to 2,067 — up from 1,705 on Friday while the total deaths since the pandemic broke out in the country in April last year is at 220.

Also of note is that the figure of 381 new cases is a record high in the second wave. The highest ever recorded in the first wave was 192 on 11th July, 2020.

And of the active cases, 80 are currently admitted in nine hospitals — 35 in Blantyre at Queen Elizabeth Central; 37 in Lilongwe at Kamuzu Central, Bwaila, Partners in Hope and Nkhoma Mission; three at Mzuzu Central; two at Balaka District, one at Zomba Central, one at Mchinji District and at Mulanje District.

Chakwera also took cognizance that the speed at which the second wave is hitting the country, is putting too much pressure on the health system and health workers.

“This cannot be allowed to continue,” he said. “If we as a nation do not fight off this virus until it is defeated; if we let down our guard and act as though there is no risk; if we keep flouting safety regulations as we have been doing, we will lose the gains we have all made to make Malawi safe.

“We must all work together to stop that from happening. We must keep each other safe by obeying guidelines, including early closures of drinking places and restrictions on public gatherings, which many are still violating.”

He went on to declare that, because of these lapses in vigilance, he has directed the Ministers of Homeland Security and Health to scale up the enforcement of COVID-19 safety guidelines with immediate effect.

Coronavirus alert

“I am confident that you as citizens will do your part to comply because we cannot afford to be complacent. We need to keep fighting because this virus has intensified its war against humanity.

“There is now more than one strain of this virus and we need to do more to keep each other safe. 

“This virus is no respecter of persons — it does not care how much money you have, how good looking you are, how much power you have, how young you are, or how old you are.

“It does not even care whether you are in government or in opposition. It has now infected all sectors of society, including members of Parliament, members of Cabinet, members of the Media, and members of the Clergy.

“All of us are at risk. And because all of us are at risk, all of us must do our part to obey the guidelines for preventing the spread of the virus — wear your mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.”

Chakwera also urged those that have symptoms of infection, including shortness of breath, fever, and coughing, to isolate themselves from others immediately and inform the nearest health facility.

“Above all, as your thoughts turn towards God this Sunday, let us intensify our prayers to God for his mercy to come down to our deliverance.

“I have personally joined our church in a program of 21-day fasting and prayer, and I encourage this nation to call on God. Wherever you are, as you fast and pray, God is able to do more than we can.”

Coronavirus alert