Malawi closed down bars and churches on Sunday as new restrictions to limit the “alarming spread of coronavirus, three months after a court blocked the government from imposing a full lockdown.
Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe unveiled newly-gazetted measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 that included the mandatory wearing of face masks, banning of all public gatherings including bars and religious centers.
Bars will only be allowed to sell alcohol as take-out and no groups of more than 10 people are allowed except for funerals with a maximum of 50 people.
The Attorney General said an “army of enforcement officers” had been hired to ensure the regulations were followed.
According to New Information Minister, Gospel Kazako, the numbers of COVID-19 cases “are rising at an alarming rate.
“The problem is big and we must all stand up. COVID-19 is here and it is killing people,” he said Sunday.
Experts had sounded the alarm about the virus as far back as May while the country focused on election campaigns that attracted ten of thousands of rallies in the absence of a lockdown.
“Because of the political climate, we had been left to face the unmitigated impact of this pandemic. Even though it has taken long, it is a very essential and necessary measure,” said Gama Bandawe, a virologist at the Malawi University of Science and Technology.
Malawi has nearly doubled the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past four weeks with the toll standing at 4,624 and the death toll standing at 143 as of Saturday.
The country had not been placed under lockdown after a court in April blocked the government from enforcing a full lockdown in Malawi for failure to announce any measures to support the vulnerable.