Southern and Eastern Africa COVID-19 Digest

Situation Report
Malawi — Trends
Handwashing
Esther Levison teaches her grandson how to wash hands using a hand made tap, in Loyitele,Lilongwe. Photo: UNICEF

Lockdown suspended by the High Court until further notice

  • First case: 2 April 2020

  • Total cases: 1,152 (as of 29 June 2020)

  • Total deaths: 13

  • Schools: Closed (5,495,017 learners affected)

  • Borders/flights: All international flights and cross-border passenger and buses banned since 1 April.

  • Containment measures: State of Disaster declared 20 March; domestic travel allowed only for seeking/providing essential services; 14-day self-quarantine for travellers or those who had contact with symptomatic people.

Situation:

On 29 June, the Government confirmed that 1,152 people contracted COVID-19 in the country. The country now fears a faster spread of the disease, especially after over 400 Malawian returnees from South Africa reportedly escaped from Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on 27 May. They were quarantined awaiting tests for coronavirus, according to media reports. Some of the returnees complained that the stadium had no water, no toilets and lack of enough food. Test results released later in the week were reportedly positive for 46 of the escapees while nearly 300 had yet to be tested, according to the media. Malawi has engaged in a judicial dispute over the COVID-19 containment measures. The 21-day lockdown expected to start from 18 April was barred by the High Court of Malawi until further notice. The decision followed and application by members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), who argued that more consultation was needed to prevent harm to the poorest and most vulnerable people. Several groups, including traders and civil sociey organizations, had also called on the Government to reconsider the lockdown and ensure that measures taken to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic include support to vulnerable people who rely on daily wages to feed their families. In response, the Government appealed the High Court decision, but the court injunction suspending was upheld. Later on 3 May, President Peter Mutharika has reportedly announced cash transfers to support informal workers who normally depend on the markets for their livelihood, according to media reports.

The lockdown would had reinforced previous measures imposed on 23 March, including the ban of public gatherings and closure of schools and universities; and the ban of all international flights and cross-border passenger buses since 1 April.

The country is also facing challenges in the medical response. Doctors and nurses have repeatedly protested the allegedly unfavorable working conditions, including a critical shortage of personal protective equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients.

Response:

  • On 8 April, Malawi Government launched the National Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, with a budget of US$213 million (MWK157 billion). The response plan includes US$20 million (0.25 percent of GDP) in spending on health care and targeted social assistance programs. This includes hiring 2,000 additional health care workers.

  • The Minister of Population Planning and Social Welfare reportedly announced on 11 April that all Government social cash transfer beneficiaries will receive a four-month disbursement. The measure aims to cushion them from the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and to boost compliance with social distance orders. In addition, on 3 May President Peter Mutharika has reportedly announced cash transfers to support informal workers who normally depend on the markets for their livelihood. The Government will reportedly target approximately 172,000 families, representing 35 per cent of the urban population.

  • On 15 April, the World Bank approved $7 million in immediate funding to support Malawi’s response under a new Malawi COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness project. In addition to the new operation, $30 million has been made available from the Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Financing with a Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (Cat-DDO) to strengthen the country’s response to the pandemic.

Official sources:

Malawi Government Official Twitter and Malawi Government Facebook Page

Ministry of Health COVID-19 Dashboard

Other links:

Malawi Government dispenses 4-month cash transfer to fight COVID-19, by Nyasa Times

COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response, by UNESCO

COVID-19 World Travel Restrictions, by the Emergency Division of the World Food Programme (WFP)

Global COVID-19 Airport Status, by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Policy Response to COVID-19, by IMF

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