BLANTYRE - Malawi has ordered opposition political parties to halt coronavirus awareness campaigns, calling the efforts a politicization of the pandemic. While Malawi has yet to confirm a case of the virus, President Peter Mutharika last week declared COVID-19 a national disaster and opposition parties have been going door-to-door to educate people on symptoms and prevention.
Malawi government spokesman Mark Botoman says opposition parties must immediately stop education campaigns on the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Speaking by telephone, he said their messages are not crafted by health experts, making the efforts a political move that could do more harm than good.
“What we are also saying is that yes, they can be partners that would want to come in to help, but they need to go through the Ministry of Health because the Ministry of Health is the one spearheading all activities around the COVID-19," he said.
The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and United Transformation Movement party (UTM) have been going door-to-door in rural areas to raise awareness of symptoms and prevention.
They say their campaigners wear masks and gloves and preach handwashing to prevent coronavirus from spreading.
The leader of the UTM party’s coronavirus awareness campaign, Felix Njawala, said there is nothing political in their messaging.
“If the person doesn’t know anything about it, then we start enlightening a person about coronavirus; what it has done in other countries and from there, we provide details of the measure that are there for them to protect themselves from contracting the virus. Then we were providing them with hand washing soap," he said.
Malawi’s healthcare rights activists have welcomed all coronavirus education campaigns.
Speaking by telephone, former president of Malawi’s National Organization of Nurses and Midwives (NONM) Dorothy Ngoma, said: "Do you think that committee of ministers will be managing to run top to bottom to teach people in the villages? I don’t think so. We should allow whatever political party, the chiefs, and the churches, to continue doing this, 24 hours a day, until we make sure that this infection is not going to knock on our doors.”
As the coronavirus spreads across Africa, Malawi has intensified screening for the virus at all entry points and hospitals.
Health authorities say over 500 people are being monitored while on self-quarantine across the country.
The squabble over opposition political parties’ coronavirus campaigning comes as Malawi’s electoral commission on Monday said a rerun of last year’s annulled polls would be held on July 2nd.
The Constitutional Court last month overturned the May 2019 election, citing widespread irregularities. President Mutharika’s party is appealing the decision at the Supreme Court.