Malawi’s new president orders inauguration scaled down amid COVID-19 fears

FILE PHOTO: Opposition Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera addresses supporters after a court annulled the May 2019 presidential vote that declared Peter Mutharika a winner, in Lilongwe, Malawi, February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara/File Photo

Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera on Saturday ordered his inauguration ceremony to be scaled down as the country continues its battle against COVID-19.

The 65-year-old was sworn in last Sunday for a five-year term after defeating former president Peter Mutharika in a run-off vote after courts annulled the result of the previous election.

Chakwera garnered 58.57 percent of the vote, with a voter turnout of over 64 percent.

“We’re in a worse situation today than we were three months ago. Coronavirus is spreading everywhere in Malawi and it’s spreading to kill,” Reuters quotes him.

The Southern African country has seen a recent spike in new infections as data shows cases have more than doubled in the past two weeks to reach nearly 1,500, with 16 deaths.

Chakwera indicated restrictions on movement were imminent, saying new measures would be announced on Tuesday when he appointed a new health minister.

“Community transmission has escalated in the last three weeks,” he said. “However, we must strike a balance between public safety and social functioning of our country.”