Malawi: Faith leaders furious over Covid-19 lockdown measures

Malawi's faith leaders have expressed disappointment with the failure by President Lazarus Chakwera's government for failing to consult them before…

Malawi’s faith leaders have expressed disappointment with the failure by President Lazarus Chakwera’s government for failing to consult them before imposing new coronavirus lockdown restrictions, APA learnt on Monday.According to the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, a group made up of mainly the country’s Catholic Bishops, the government announced the new measures without consulting the country’s faith leaders to hear their views on the restrictions.

The imposition of new rules, they noted, was done three months after a court ruled against imposing the very restrictions on the country until the courts review the law governing the measures.

The church leaders however said they had informed their flock during services on Sunday to abide by the regulations announced by the government earlier in the day until the complaints against the new restrictions are sorted out.

Until then, the bishops said they “shall engage government to see our true role in preventing the further spread of Covid-19 in the country.”

On its part, while failing to admit its lack of wide consultations with the faith community before imposing the punitive measures, the Malawian government said it would sit down with religious leaders to find a way forward on the issue.

“The government has resolved to engage religious leaders in further consultations,” Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda announced in a statement.

Among the government’s new restrictions were reduced working hours for bars and restaurants, banning of markets near hospitals, and the wearing of masks at all public places or face a MK10,000 (about US$13) fine for failing to do so.

The final straw that really angered the faith community was the ban of church gatherings, which saw the imposition of a limit of 10 people at a time – from the current 100 people – to attend public gatherings such as church meetings or allowing a maximum of 50 people during funeral services.

Malawi has 4,624 Covid-19 infections and 143 people have died from the disease since its outbreak in the country April, the health ministry said, adding that there has, however, been an upsurge lately of new cases.