Faced with a rise in new Covid-19 cases, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has tightened precautionary measures, including reverting to restrictions on public gatherings to 50.
During a media briefing in Lilongwe on Wednesday Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, who is also co-chairperson of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, also indicated that a new consignment of Covid-19 vaccine, Astra-Zeneca, will be delivered within the next two weeks.
She said: “Based on this increase, our data indicates that we are experiencing a resurgence of the Covid-19 in our country and this indicates that we are in the third wave of the pandemic.
“We are in Level 3 of the response. In this level, there are a number of rules and regulations that are supposed to be reinforced.”
The measures come against a background of epidemiologists pleading with the public against laxity, saying the country was in the third wave as evidenced by rising new cases and death.
Under the new measures, political rallies and fans access to sports stadiums are banned, according to the minister who said stadium attendance will be restricted to 100.
Kandodo said employers are advised to decongest workplaces by devising shifts that will see half the staff working at any given time. Where possible, she said, workers should be operating from their respective homes.
She said: “Employees at high-risk of severe disease such as people aged 60 and above and people with comorbidities should work from home.”
The minister also said physical indoor meetings are discouraged and that virtual and outdoor meetings should be encouraged.
Restaurants and recreation places are also required to reduce the number of people by 50 percent capacity while banks and other service providers are required to limit the contact time in business places by increasing the number of cashiers or bank tellers.
In markets, she said vendors should stay at their stand or a fixed position and avoid walking about to solicit customers.
The minister said there should be screening for body temperature by trained personnel and hand-washing facilities at entrances of all public places.
In bars and restaurants, she said government is recommending outdoor sitting or take aways.
“For indoors in bars and restaurants, the capacity is reduced to 50 percent maximum. Night clubs are banned as of now, but bars must open from 2pm to 10pm. There is also a curfew starting from 10pm to 6am,” said Chaponda.
The measures also reduce carrying capacity in public transport by half and that operators should disinfect their vehicles regularly.
In terms of travel, the minister said there are no restrictions on leaving Malawi to travel, but said travel to countries or territories placed as high-risk destinations is not allowed.
Following the new measures, travellers are required to have a valid negative test result certificate as prescribed by government.
On the other hand, visitors from high risk countries or territories will be subjected to 14 days institutional quarantine at their cost.
On public gatherings, the minister said seating capacity should not exceed 100 for outdoors and 50 for indoors while overnight services are banned.
Chiponda said burial should take place within 48 hours or timelines stipulated in Covid-19 burial guidelines.
Malawi run out of Covid-19 vaccines mid last month after depletion of the initial 512 000 jabs donated by well-wishers, including the Covax Facility—a multi-donor initiative which procured drugs for poor countries.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr. Charles Mwansambo is on record as having said that the 900 000 doses from the Covax Facility were due in May, but that delivery delayed due to high demand for the vaccine and India’s decision to reduce exports of the jabs to cater for its domestic needs amid a spike in cases.
On Wednesday, Chiponda indicated that delivery is expected in two weeks’ time, but did not state the expected quantity.
She said: “On Covid-19 vaccination, cumulatively 385 242 and 43 165 people have received the first dose and second dose, respectively. The Covid-19 vaccination remains paused as we have no available doses and a total of 428 407 vaccine doses have been administered in the country so far.”
By July 6, Malawi had cumulatively recorded 3 032 new Covid-19 cases, 62 deaths and admissions in the treatment units stood at 109.