Today, on 28 April, I want to address you on Coronavirus again. This is a disease that is attacking people of all ages, all social economic statuses, all races and in all countries.
Countries such as the United States of America, Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, South Africa and many more are all under attack. Rich and poor nations are all struggling and suffering.
By today, over three million people have been confirmed to have been attacked with Coronavirus globally. More than two hundred thousand people have died. Let me say this: the people who are dying are just like you and me.
The World Health Organization estimates that Coronavirus could infect as many as ten million (10,000,000) people in Africa. In Africa alone, over three hundred thousand people can die.
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.
Let me continue to offer my condolences to the bereaved families who have lost their loved ones. May their souls rest in peace.
For those of you who have been confirmed to have Coronavirus, I wish you my best wishes of quick recovery. We are with you in spirit and prayer. Today, it is you, tomorrow it can be anyone of us.
Let me take my turn to thank our medical doctors, nurses and all healthcare workers for your sacrifice to protect us from Coronavirus. 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.
Coronavirus is real. Coronavirus is everywhere in every country. We all can see that. Anyone who denies the existence of coronavirus 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. Those politicians who send their people to be denying the existence of coronavirus want many Malawians to die.
For once, only for once, let us be serious and stop politicizing Coronavirus. Let us stop pointing fingers.
I therefore appeal to all Malawians to stop listening to those that are politicizing coronavirus fight in Malawi.
Human life is sacred. Let us respect human life. And let us save lives. Let us fight Coronavirus as a common enemy.
I repeat! Coronavirus is real. And the war against the virus is real.
Since, I declared coronavirus a National Disaster on 20th March 2020, we have implemented various measures to strengthen our preparedness and management of the disease.
We have strengthened surveillance in all our border posts and increased the 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.
At the same time, we have now opened institutional isolation centers and treatment centers in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
So far, we have been treating patients with mild symptoms in their homes. But we will now start taking people to isolation and treatment centers. Our strategy is to trace, test and treat.
On the other front, we are fortifying our institutional capacity to fight Coronavirus. This far:
We have started recruiting new healthcare workers. We should have 2000 new healthcare workers reporting for duties in a week’s time. These are mostly nurses and clinical officers.
In addition, we are also going to recruit 1,500 health surveillance assistants. We want to intensify hygiene in our communities.
We are also acquiring significant amounts of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for our healthcare workers.
In short, 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!
Let us remember one thing. Coronavirus is a public health and clinical problem. But Coronavirus is also an economic problem. 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.
I and the entire Government will do our part. But you must also do your part. Everyone must do their part. Doctors and nurses are doing their part to save us. And everyone, including the courts, churches and everyone must do your part to save Malawi.
On our part, this is what is happening this far:
I and my Cabinet are donating part of our salaries to the fight.
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 as I directed.
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.
We have waived fees and charges on electronic payments.
ADMARC is actively buying produce from farmers at reasonable prices as I directed.
We have raised allowance for healthcare workers.
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.
And I am pleased to see churches maintaining the social distance and restricting gatherings.
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.
Therefore, we will proceed with the following new measures. Once we have implemented these measures, we are proceeding to restrict movement of people.
Thus, we are introducing an Emergency Cash Transfer Program to serve small scale businesses in and around our major markets in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Zomba and others. This is an extended cash transfer facility to support Malawians who depend on the markets for their survival.
Government will target a minimum of 172,000 households in these areas, representing an estimated 35 percent of the urban population.
Considering family size of around 5 people based on the 2018 Household Census, this will translate to just under a million people who will be reached with this measure.
The program will be implemented for a period of six months translating into 3 months of response and 3 months of recovery. 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.
I have, therefore, directed the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Ministry of Population and Social Welfare to devise an implementation process which will include registration of households in the hotspot areas and its immediate implementation beginning the month of May 2020.
In addition to Emergency Cash Transfers in the peri-urban areas, my Government will also provide cash top-up to existing beneficiaries of Mtukula Pakhomo Program in all the 28 Districts.
This will strengthen livelihood interventions aimed at minimizing negative coping mechanisms for the poor. Details on implementation of these interventions will be announced shortly.
I want once again to thank the Development Partners, the Private Sector and many others for your support and standing with us as a country.
Lastly, I direct Government to restructure what we have so far called the Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus.
From now, it will now be called the Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus. This Taskforce will be co-chaired by a Cabinet Minister and a Professor in Public Health. The Taskforce will directly report to me.
Below Presidential Taskforce, there remain various technical committees which include various professionals and sectors from both the public and private sectors.
But I want to thank professors and doctors from the University of Malawi who have accepted to sit on the Presidential Taskforce.
I am equally grateful to the Christian Health Association (CHAM) for accepting to be part of the Taskforce to represent health services in the private sector.
I also want to thank Honourable Lobin Lowe, Leader of the Opposition, who has kindly accepted to be part of the Taskforce on behalf of Opposition parties.
I thank the Chairperson of the Public Affairs Committee for accepting to be part of the Taskforce on behalf of faith organisations.
I want to thank the Chiefs Council for delegating a senior chief to be part of the Taskforce and represent chiefs across the country.
More sectors including the CSO sector will be represented.
The complete Taskforce will soon be announced by the OPC.
In conclusion, I call upon all Malawians for us to unite and fight Coronavirus. Together, let us save lives.
My advice remains: stay home, stay safe.
Coronavirus ndi Matenda oopsya Kambwiri. Tiyeni Tonse tigwirizane, tigonjetse Matenda a Coronavirus. Tiyeni tipulumutse moyo.
I thank you for your kind attention!
God bless Malawi.