Authorities in Malawi announced on Tuesday, April 14, that a nationwide lockdown will come into effect from Saturday, April 18, until Saturday, May 9, due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
During the lockdown, all nonessential businesses and services will close and nonessential movement is prohibited. According to reports, all movement into and out of the country has been suspended and a curfew will be in effect from 19:00 to 06:30 (local time). All cultural activities, private transport, and sporting events are suspended. Bottle stores, bars, pubs, and clubs, including those in hospitality facilities, will close. Restaurants, public eating places, and fast food outlets are closed to the public, except for takeaway services. Furthermore, all social gatherings and public events are also suspended.
In addition, gatherings of more than five people are not permitted. Political rallies and events are also prohibited and religious gatherings will be regulated. According to reports, essential services, including health and sanitation facilities, pharmacies and drug stores, fire fighting and emergency services, utility services, veterinary services, and banks are allowed to continue operations.
On Tuesday, April 14, doctors and medical workers staged a sit-in protest in Blantyre to protest a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and poor working conditions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The demonstration was reportedly held at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital as part of a strike.
To date, there have been 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malawi, and two associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.