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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Mr. President, What Is Your Plan For COVID-19?


Over the next few months, hundreds if not thousands of Malawi may die. A vast majority of those deaths could have been prevented if the country had stuck to internationally recognized scientifically proven COVID-19 mitigation principles.

While social distancing and lockdowns do not entirely eliminate the epidemic, there is a general agreement now that such measures can keep infections at a rate low enough for hospitals to handle the epidemic properly.

In the words of the top American national infections czar, lockdowns can help to “flatten the curve”.The previous government imposed a lockdown early enough in the epidemic and had a real chance of slowing the disease considerably. The current president, then an opposition leader, teamed up with HRDC and fought strongly against the lockdown. A judge issued an injunction against the lockdown.Then, there were the elections.

After having insisted to have the elections proceed in spite of the national emergency, people started campaign in large gatherings and rallies that culminated into very long voting lines.All these factors have led to the skyrocketing infection rates currently being seen in Malawi. As I write now lots of infections are being reported at banks and hospitals in Blantyre, parliament buildings in Lilongwe, and in many other areas of the country.

Here is a curious question: What plan has the president proposed so far to combat the epidemic? NOTHING!On the contrary, he has done things that appear to move the situation in the wrong direction.

In his inaugural presidential press conference, the president ruled out a lockdown. In doing so he spoke against all known science on the subject. He offered no alternative.His first major action on the subject came yesterday when he instructed his new attorney general to stop the Coronavirus Task force from enforcing restrictions that were intended to protect the country.

Having seen the expanding the problem, the taskforce had made some science-based recommendations. Apparently, the president does not agree.Today, the president came up with another solution. He requested the nation to pray and fast for three days. As a man of faith, I believe the president’s faith is very admirable.

There are, however, two points about that.

1. Malawi is a country of religious people. But Malawi is not a religious country. The constitution is very clear on that. Setting national prayer days from the State House can quickly run into issues of separation between state and religion. It is always best to let the clergy lead religious initiatives.

2. While prayer is a very realistic answer to the epidemic, it is also necessary to have a solid plan on how to deal with the disease.And so here we are today,

3 weeks into his presidency, and 6 months after the advent of coronavirus in Malawi, the president has absolutely no plan on to deal with what is arguably the worst epidemic Malawi has ever faced. He has said nothing about how the country is going to deal with people visiting the country through the airports; he has no plans on how to deal with the southern border through which most of the cases have come in.

He has no plan as to how to slow down person-to-person infections in the country. The president has met the first real test of his presidency, and he has either failed or is failing badly.There are no easy shortcuts to finding solutions to this pandemic. Real solutions will need to be science based. This is a moment that calls for true leadership. Will Laz Chakwera begin to rise to the occasion?

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  1. The same previous government that wanted to effect lock down without measures in place to protect poor people imported significant number of COVID 19 cases with no proper mechanisms in place to quarantine them so that these people infected their communities. The result is what we are seeing. So do not run away from this fact


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