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Malawi Government sees VP Chilima press briefing as a political event for UTM and responds point by point

VICE PRESIDENT DR SAULOS CHILIMA’S PRESS BRIEFING ON COVID-19 HELD ON 8 APRIL 2020

VEEP Chilima: Equip, Empower, Motivate and Protect Our Health Workers

Government Response: All health care workers are being oriented, equipped and supported. This work is being done in phases. In addition, the President has directed the Ministry of Health to recruit 2000 healthcare workers.

VEEP Chilima: Salaries of health workers are low

Government Response: The Government appreciates that every human being has the right to freedom of expression. It is, however, imperative that what we speak considers the reality on the ground. The Government of Malawi has always been committed to ensuring that its employees are accorded descent salaries to sustain their livelihoods. In this regard, the tax-free bracket was raised as a mitigation measure. Every year, salaries of civil servants are reviewed. All fair-minded people will realise that salaries of civil servants have a threshold of the budget that they cannot go beyond. The national budget balances all the national requirements. It is in this regard that salary increments are reflected in the budget and tabled before the national assembly, so that representatives of the people assess them and advise accordingly.

VEEP Chilima: Government should refurnish state house lodges such as Zomba, Mtunthama and Mzuzu lodges to be places for treatment when Covid-19 increases

Government Response: Government is well set by preparing several places. Actually, even in countries that are worst hit, we have not seen state lodges turned into treatment centres. It is in that regard that alternative places like stadiums have been turned into treatment centres. The public will be delighted to know that the Malawi College of Health Sciences campuses have already been earmarked in case of increases in the number of Covid-19 cases. The campuses are within or close to central hospitals.

VEEP Chilima: Members of Cabinet committee on Covid-19 are collecting allowances for their work

Government Response: There is no budget line for allowances in the funding for corona virus. The public will be pleased to know that Ministers and their technical officers are sacrificing a lot in the fight against the corona virus. In this regard, they do not pocket any allowances even when they work at odd hours, which is often the case. The Government further appreciates the media for their understanding because even journalists that attend the COVID 19 press conferences do not even get any allowances. These measures are meant to ensure that resources made available in curbing COVID 19 are channeled directly to the actual intervention measures.

VEEP Chilima: MEDF Funds should be redirected to the fight against COVID-19

Government Response: The United Nations (UN) study into the financial and human cost of the pandemic has revealed that the virus could push half a billion people into abject poverty. This will be the first time that poverty has increased globally. There is a great possibility, therefore, that if no mitigation measures are affected to cushion the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), we risk spiraling millions of our people deep into poverty. It is the dream of His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika that we lift our people from poverty into the middle class, then eventually upper class. By providing significant resources to the public through MEDF, Government is demonstrating its willingness to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. Government is looking at reviving the economy post CPVID-19 pandemic and MSMEs are a key partner in the economic revitalization of the nation.

VEEP Chilima: Covid-19 test kits are not reliable.

Government Response: All our test kits and laboratory equipment are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). All tests are done by qualified health care workers. We call upon all people to appreciate Laboratory Science before making statements that will unfairly assess laboratory work and our scientists. It is unfortunate that VEEP Chilima has stooped so low and joined the bandwagon of fake news masters.

VEEP Chilima: Government is not serious in protecting citizens with only 20,000 test kits

Government Response: Our response to Covid-19 is in progress and throughout the different phases, we are guided by our highly qualified public health experts and the WHO. The test kits that we have are enough for now.

VEEP Chilima: We have three testing centres only: two in Blantyre and one in Lilongwe

Government Response: Government has announced plans to increase testing centres several times. A team of medical engineers is in Mzuzu setting up a testing centre which will be ready by Friday, 10 April 2020. We are also working with Chancellor College and LUANAR to use their laboratories for testing. In addition, we will be calibrating our equipment used for testing TB to test Covid-19 in district hospitals. As we can see, the response to Covid-19 is a process, not an event.

VEEP Chilima: Covid-19 information is inadequate, especially in rural areas

Government Response: Government and UNICEF have been orienting opinion leaders from all parts of Malawi.

The following have been oriented:

Paramount traditional leaders

District Commissioners

Senior Religious leaders

District Education Managers/Directors

Civic Education Officers

District Information Officers

District Health/Medical Officers

We have faith in our systems, especially decentralization of power to local areas. A number of sectors, including councilors at local councils, are playing a role.

In addition, Government and development partners have produced messages, including sign language to cater for citizens with hearing problems. A number of radio and television stations have provided free slots for Covid-19 messages for weeks now. Government appreciates the role all media houses are playing in raising awareness about Covid-19. By now, most people in Malawi know that hygiene is key in prevention. Social distancing is being practiced even in rural areas.

Government will not tire but work towards increasing communication and producing messages suitable for every stage of our fight against Covid-19.

VEEP Chilima: We do not have enough ventilators to treat even 100 Covid-19 patients. I can count the number of ventilators

Government Response: We have over 20 ventilators available in public hospitals. We are lucky that so far most of our patients have mild symptoms and do not need ventilators. Government, through UNICEF, is procuring more equipment for Covid-19 management. So far, there is no need for alarm.

VEEP Chilima: Chair of Cabinet Committee was campaigning for a position at Malawi Olympics.

Government Response: The chair did not miss any assignment. The committee did not miss him at any given time. I want to believe he won without campaign. His involvement in Malawi Olympics has nothing to do with his role as Chair for the Cabinet Committee.

VEEP Chilima: Government should introduce more Interventions in the economy

Government Response: President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika announced measures to cushion the economy. In his address he said these measures will be reviewed time and again, dependent on the extent of Covis-19 in our country.

VEEP Chilima: President Mutharika must operate from Kamuzu Palace

Government Response: The President holds the prerogative over choice of place to be. In any case, the President has been leading the fight against Covid-19 while in Blantyre.

VEEP Chilima: President and ministers should cut 50% of their salaries

Government Response: The Executive Arm of Government has provided resources to the fight against Covid-19. In addition, it has pleased His Excellency President Arthur Peter Mutharika to direct that 10% of his salary and that of ministers and deputy ministers should be channeled towards Covid-19 management. Malawians may wish to recall that His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika he took only 40 percent of his salary throughout his first term.

Mark Botomani, MP

MINISTER OF INFORMATION, CIVIC EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY

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