Malawi: President Lazarus Chakwera Cancels Independence Celebrations

Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday called off independence celebrations amid a drastic spike in the number of coronavirus infections in the southern African country, reported The South African.

Chakwera, who was elected as the new Malawi president last Sunday for a five-year term, was set to be inaugurated on Monday, the same day the country marks its 56th Independence Day celebrations, at a giant stadium in the capital, Lilongwe.

Chakwera won the June 23 election with 58.5% of the vote, beating Peter Mutharika, whose re-election last year was annulled by the courts over widespread and systematic irregularities.

Already on Saturday, the newly elected president had slashed the stadium audience by half to 20 000 to limit the virus spread. But on Sunday the independence celebrations and president’s swearing in ceremony was shifted to the Kamuzu Barracks in the city, where only 100 people will be invited.

Malawi has registered 1 613 cases so far. The number of cases has more than doubled in the past two weeks with 16 deaths. At least 64% of the new infections were from community transmission.

“In view of this acceleration rate of local transmission and its wide geographical spread I have decided to cancel the celebration,” said Chakwera in a brief address to the nation.

The Malawi president said all the resources meant for the Independence Day celebrations will now be used to the fight against COVID-19.

Unlike other African countries, Malawi not been placed under a lockdown. In April the High Court struck down former president Peter Mutharika’s order of 21-day lockdown after a petition from a human rights organization.

However Chakwera hinted that movement restrictions were much needed. He said new measures to curb the spread of corona virus would be announced on Tuesday when he appointed a new health minister.

“Community transmission has escalated in the last three weeks,” he said. “However, we must strike a balance between public safety and social functioning of our country.”

Caroline Finnegan

A professionnal journalist for the past ten years, I cover global news and economic affairs for The Chief Observer.

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