HRDC urges govt to close schools, bars, entry points


Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has asked government of Malawi to close down schools, bars amid rising numbers and deaths from COVID-19.

In a statement released on Tuesday, January 12 the Human Rights group said these are unprecedented times and call for nothing but extraordinary measures and strategies to effectively contain what they termed "this monster." 

This is a u-turn from previous stands by the group which was in the forefront objecting to such measures a few months ago to the extent they obtained an injunction.

Ministry of Education said it is working on the policy at hand-have schools open while they make assessment. This is despite a numbers of students at some schools contracting the virus.

"Malawi is mourning. Malawi is at war. Our only hope in containing this marauding virus is to employee and tighten all the preventive strategies that are at our disposal.

"It is time that government must not shy away from effecting what it deems effective in taming this virus – even if it means partial lockdown – as long as it is done in good faith, respect rule of law and within the tenets of human rights.

"Time has come for Malawians to divorce politics from Covid 19. We need every Malawian to pull in the same direction,"  said HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence.

Trapence called for strengthening of Health System recommending that government and all development partners should direct their resources towards making sure that the health system is equipped to absorb the shocks of COVID-19.

HRDC has also asked for the creation of more bed space, more ventilators in  hospitals.

It is called for decentralisation of COVID- 19 response mechanism to district hospitals.

The group also wants recruitment of more health workers saying the virus has stretched our providers, they are overwhelmed and tired and are being exposed to the virus.

"We also need to improve on contact tracing – this again boils down to the need for adequate health providers," he said.

Trapence then pleaded for the government to revise the restriction of 100 people per gathering and total enforcement of the COVID-19 guidelines among which are the mandatory wearing of masks, social distancing, washing and hand sanitising. 

Further recommendation hinge on close of boarders and airports – all points of entry into the country must be closed forthwith and only allow for essentials to pass through.

"In the same breath, we call upon authorities to make sure that institutional quarantine is enforced at any cost."

Uncertainty leads to panic;  markets do not do well with shock and HRDC is recommending cushion for the vulnerable- while government is enforcing the restrictions.