By Wisdom Ngwira – Mana.
When Government declared Covid-19 pandemic a national disaster on March 20, 2020, almost all sectors of the society came to a halt.
Three days after this declaration by President Prof Peter Mutharika, government set out a number of measures which were aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.
Schools were ordered to close with immediate effect, public gatherings of more than 100 people were banned, the same with sporting and entertainment events.
Working from home was encouraged to decongest working places and people were encouraged to stay at home.
Various sectors in the society embarked on adhoc measures to comply with the government directive on the set conditions.
When all this was said done, the country had no confirmed Coronavirus case. Still everyone feared the deadliness of the pandemic which by then had alreadyclaimed thousands of lives in other countries.
What sent shivers to Malawians most was news that countries with sophisticated health systems like United States of America, China, United Kingdom, Italy and others were struggling to stop this invisible enemy from killing their people.
Surely it was inevitable for Malawi not to lagbehind but join the global bandwagon of preventing the spread of the virus.
Speaking at one of Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 update meetings, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Dan Namarika warned that 50, 000 lives could be lost in a year if prevention measures were taken for granted.
“We are saying that this disease is real and according to our Kuunika modeling a very short period of time, 85 per cent of the country’s population might be infected with the virus if we do business as usual,” he predicted
Massive suspensions of public gatherings
In a sheer way of accepting government’s directive, major faith institutions announced ban of previous sessions of more than 100 congregants.
Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) National Spokesperson, Sheikh Dinala Chabulika told Malawi News Agency (Mana) that Muslims would be in compliance with government set measures.
“As Muslims, we are in total support of government’s decision to encourage people observe social distance by not being in one place in multitudes. We know that if we obey this rule, it will be difficult for the virus to spread.
“We are encouraging our people to continue praying in their homes as we wait for health experts to work on finding a lasting solution to the pandemic,” he stated.
Church of Central Africa Presbytery (CCAP), Livingstonia Synod General Secretary, Levi Nyondo agreed that there was need to follow all set measure if Covid-19 was to be defeated.
“As Livingstonia Synod, we are already telling our people to stop congregating inmultitudes, but rather divide their services so that we comply with the 100 people limit.
“We have instructed all our establishments to make sure that they are providing hand washing materials at Churches and all other establishments so that the virus does not find a chance to spread,” he said.
True to their words, the set measures were really followed such that many churches and mosques had less than 100 people.
In the sports world, various sporting disciplines suspended their planned activities in light of the pandemic.
The entertainment and other circles all followed suit in adjusting their programmes to avoid live performances of any kind which may attract many people.
When the country registered imported case from India and Tanzania, it managed to contain further spread of the virus.
Minister of Health, Jappie Mhango was on record to have commended Malawians for minimizing the spread because of adherence of the government set measures.
Turn of events
However, just when Covid-19 preventive measures were strictly followed, the opening of presentation of nomination papers by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) turned things around.
During the presentations of the papers, both major political alliances in the fresh poll, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)/United Democratic Front (UDF) and Tonse Alliance ignored the preventative set standards as thousands of their supporters converged in Blantyre to cheer their leaders.
Though MEC reminded political parties to observe set standards in prevention of Covid-19 during campaign period, parties have gone flat out conducting campaign rallies patronized by thousands and without adherence to the measures.
While hand washingfacilities such as water, soap, and buckets are being provided in some rallies majority of people who are attending the rallies hardly use them.
In some instances, political leaders of these Alliances are even disregarding the minimum one metre physical distance set while not putting face masks.
Health Rights Activist, Maziko Matemba noted that politicians seem to have forgotten the danger of the pandemic.
“We should not lose cognizance of the fact that the pandemic is in the country and the country is slowly reaching its peak. We don’t know how many will be affected with these political gatherings where all the measures are almost being abandoned,” he said.
Cries for a return to normal life
Frustrated by politicians who preached against people gathering in large numbers but have themselves reverted back to their normal lives at the expense of votes, various sectors are now pushing for removal of some of set prevention measures for them to return to their businesses as usual again.
A Group of renowned musicians who mobilized themselves on May 13, 2020 announced that they would start holding live shows because political parties are conducting rallies attracting thousands of people.
Operating under the banner, Concerned Active Musicians, the artists said they are struggling to support their families because music was their reliable source of income.
“We complied with the ban on public gatherings and stopped all live shows but we have learnt from those who announced the ban that it is no longer necessary.
“Markets are open, politicalrallies are happening where we see thousands gather. Asmusicians, we depend on live performances to earn a living. Suspension of live performances has taken a toll on the economy of band members,” Renowned musician, Lucius Banda observed.
To this effect, Musicians say they would hold live shows comprisingperformers in both gospel and secular music.
In football circles, the country’s top teams, Nyasa Big Bullets, Be Forward Wanderers and Silver Strikers supporters demand football return before May 30, 2020.
“To say the truth, we cannot continue staying without football as this disease seem to have come to stay just as Malaria, HIV and Aids, Tuberculosis (TB) and others,” Bullets Supporters’ Secretary, Mabvuto Chibambo added.
He said what was needed was for authorities to sit down and find ways in which the games could be played while observing the preventive measures.
Silver Strikers Supporters’ Committee Chairperson, Kingsley Malaya said football was being victimized in the name of the Covid-19.
“The measures for fighting Covid-19 should not only be applied to football because we are seeing other sectors of the society slowly returning to their usual lives,” he charged.
Danger still looms
While the nation seem to slowly start accepting a return to normal life despite the rising cases of confirmed Covid-19 cases, registered at 455 as of June 9, 2020, health experts warn against the flex.
Renowned Epidemiologist, Dr. Titus Divala advises politicians to appreciate that Covid-19 was real hence the need to lead in observing the preventive measures.
“Politicians are putting themselves and other people at greater risk of death. Those on top of Covid-19 management should be role models by being exemplary,” he observed.
Minister agrees with Matemba saying there was still a huge danger for the country if the preventive measures are abandoned.
“Our neighbours like Zambia and Tanzania have difficult time in containing the pandemic. We are still below 100 but at the pace we are going, we might be hitting 100 very soon if we continue abandoning the set preventive measures,” Mhango warned.