APM Disbands Cabinet Committee on COVID19
The Special Cabinet Committee on corona virus headed by health minister Jappie Mhango has been disbanded and in its place, President Peter Mutharika has set up a presidential taskforce on the pandemic.
Mutharika says the multi-discipline taskforce shall be co-chaired by a cabinet minister and a professor on public health and it shall report direct to him.
"Below the Presidential Taskforce, there remain various technical committees which include various professionals and sectors from both the public and private sectors," Mutharika said.
Other members of the Taskforce shall include academia, the Christian Health Association of Malawi, leader of the opposition, Lobin Lowe, the Public Affairs Committee, the Chiefs Council and the CSOs.
“This is a disease that is attacking people of all ages, all social economic statuses, all races and in all countries.
“Here in Malawi, we are now 26 days since we diagnosed our first case on 2nd April. In less than a month, we have confirmed a total of 36 cases. We have 28 active cases because 5 people recovered and 3 people have died," he observed thankful to medical doctors, nurses and healthcare workers for sacrificing to protect people from the virus.
"Your country will forever be grateful to you. I want all of you to know that we appreciate the work you do in saving lives. We appreciate your sacrifices. It can only take the spirit of sacrifice, unity and hard work for us to save lives," Mutharika said adding that the complete composition of the taskforce would be made public soon by the Office of the President.
The president also found occasion to bash his political rivals describing them as lunatics who are sending their followers to deny existence of coronavirus.
“They must be sent to the mental hospital or to a lunatic asylum. Denying the existence of coronavirus is taking a dangerous path that will lead to death of many Malawians," he said calling for depoliticization of the pandemic and an end to finger pointing.
President Mutharika declared coronavirus a National Disaster on 20th March 2020 and has since implemented various measures aimed at strengthening preparedness and management of the disease.
Among other measures, he cited strengthened surveillance in border posts and increased number of testing facilities to five in all regions of the country.
"Our target is to open 15 testing centers in the next one month. We want to reach out to as many Malawians and save as many lives as we can," he says.
Patients with mild symptoms who, until now, were treated in their homes shall now be taken to isolation and treatment centers.
"We will do everything we can to fight this pandemic. Our strength is not in our resources. Our strength lies in our spirit of unity and resolve to fight!" Mutharika says.
Acknowledging that coronavirus is a public health and clinical problem Mutharika also noted that the pandemic has economic ramification.
“Coronavirus is bringing economic uncertainty and potential suffering to many people. Coronavirus is threatening our businesses and livelihoods.
“I know, and I understand that there are many Malawians who are not sure how we will pass through these difficult times. But I assure you we will pass through," he said.
He then called on the courts, churches and everyone to do their part to save Malawi.
*We have reduced fuel prices in order to keep the cost of living low;
*We are working with Commercial Banks to make borrowing bearable. Banks are now giving moratorium to loan repayments and restructuring loan facilities of their clients;
*The Reserve Bank of Malawi is managing well the liquidity of the Banking Sector and the exchange rate;
*The tobacco market is smoothly operating with enhanced Covid-19 measures as directed;
*Imports and exports of strategic commodities are smoothly flowing between our country and neighboring countries to maintain the chain of supply.
*Admarc is actively buying produce from farmers at reasonable prices as I directed;
*We have increased MEDF loans to reach out to more people across the country;
*We have introduced tax grace and made various tax measures more affordable;
"Coming to the issue of the lockdown, this matter is before the Courts. On our part, we will proceed to do what is necessary to save lives as circumstances warrant. For me, the right to life is supreme above all other rights," he said.
President Mutharika says his administration has introduced an Emergency Cash Transfer Program to serve small scale businesses in and around major markets in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Zomba and others as an extended facility to support Malawians who depend on the markets for their survival.
This will target a minimum of 172,000 households representing an estimated 35 percent of the urban population which is slightly below a million people.
"Each identified household will be paid electronically through mobile payments K35, 000 per month and the amount is based on the prevailing Government minimum wage rate," he said.
The program will be implemented for a period of six months translating into 3 months of response and 3 months of recovery.