By Duncan Mlanjira
Society of Law Students (SLS) executive has distanced itself from the interlocutory injunction that some of the students from the Law Faculty that wishes to obtain an injunction to stop the order made by the President Peter Mutharika on Friday March 20 that he declared a State of Disaster in government’s prevention measures against the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-9).
A statement from SLS president Chikhulupiliro Zidana says in as much as everyone acknowledges that the applicants have a right to challenge the presidential order, but “as a SLS executive, we would like to distance ourselves from the said application.”
Zidana takes cognizance that President Mutharika declared a state of disaster following the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, the disease which has so far claimed thousands of lives since since its discovery late last year and has been declared by World Health Organisation (WHO) as a global epidemic.
“In his speech, the President ordered the closure of all schools in the country including colleges and universities,” says the statement from Zidana.
“This was done inorder to avoid the virus from spreading in the event that it has found its way to Malawi.
“This order was effected by the [Chancellor] College management through a memo released on Saturday which required all students to leave the school premises by Monday.
“In so doing, it is our understanding that the college was being proactive to avoid the spread of the virus and to avoid being reactive should it happen that one of us is infected.
“It is against this background that some four students whose names appear on the application have decided to obtain an injunction so that the president’s order should not be executed and that students should return to school.
“As much, as we acknowledge that the applicants have a right to challenge the presidential order, as a SLS executive, we would like to distance ourselves from the said application.
“As we are all aware, whenever a decision is to be made affecting the entire student body, we solicit for your views through the General Assembly or through our class representatives.
“This signifies the representative leadership that we all would like to see. As SLS, we understand that we all have the right to education but the same cannot be realised fully should it happen that one or more are infected.
“This is why the street law campaign was cancelled even though we had already invested alot on the same.”
SLS executive informs the students that it will keep on updating the them on any development as regards the dates for the reopening of the school.
“We, therefore, would like to encourage everyone to observe and adhere to the health tips from the Ministry of Health as well as the World Healthy Organization. Stay safe and stay alive,” says Zidana.
According to Zodiak Broadcasting Station, four Chancellor College students have filed an application with the courts in Zomba challenging closure of their school as part of government measures to avoid spread of the Coronavirus in Malawi.
Meanwhile, South African National Defence (SANDF) has been granted permission that it may support other state departments to mitigate the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and one of their tasks shall include enforcing government restrictions that have been imposed through street patrols.
A memorandum from the Department of Defence which Maravi Express has seen and collaborated with media reports from that country, said the acting Chief of the Army has instructed South African Army Infantry Formation to prepare and provide support units allocated to support the effort under the general regulations of Op Chariot.
“This conceptually entails supporting other government departments in terms of disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and crisis response,” says the memorandum seen by Maravi Express.
Just like President Peter Mutharika did by declaring Malawi a State of Disaster on Friday following the spread of the COVID-19 — which World Health Organisation has described as a global epidemic — South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa also did the same on March 15.
And also like in Malawi, the declaration triggered a number of ministerial announcements of travel restrictions, visa bans and limiting the size of mass gatherings to just 100.
According to South Africa’s Sunday Times, the SANDF street patrols will tighten adherence to the restrictions to help stop the virus from spreading.
Just as in SA, Botswana Defence Force has suspended leave applications and is recalling those who are on holiday to return to their units to start preparing for short term deployment
On Saturday it was announced that the infection rate in SA stood at 240 positive cases and concerns have been raised that a national ‘state of emergency’ is on the cards following a high level meeting on Saturday between Treasury, the SA Reserve Bank and the SA Revenue Service on measures to shore up the economy, to protect small businesses and ordinary South Africans amidst predictions that there could be a huge spike in COVID-19 infections.
When declaring the State of Disaster, President Mutharika told Malawians that at present there is no specific Off-the-Counter treatment or vaccine for Coronavirus available and 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 Coronavirus get well after medical interventions.”
He added that 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.
He shared with Malawians some of the preventive measures as prescribed by global medical experts that include:
• Washing of hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
• Stoping handshakes
• Maintaining social distance with people;
• Not touching eyes, nose and mouth;
• Practising cough hygiene by covering mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing;
• Seeking medical care whenever feeling unwell.