There has been a lot of uncertainty, rejections when the lockdown was announced over things like will markets be open, will public transport be available? Will shops be open for people get food and other essentials. All this lack of information, coupled with the fact that the initial announcement was only made in English and offered sketchy information, created panic.

But on Thursday Minister of Health Jappie Mhango who heads the Special Cabinet Committee on COVID-19 told the nation of the specifics and here they are:

1. Markets and supermarkets

All central markets are suspended. Fresh foods, fruits, relish and other requirements may be sourced from locality markets. In places where there are no markets, the Local Councils, in conjunction with traditional or block leaders, will identify and announce the markets that will be used in vicinity. These markets will operate from 6.00 am to 2.00 pm [daily] or [on prescribed days].

Local Councils, in conjunction with Ministry of Trade, will identify and license persons to supply essential goods and services to local markets and shops. In addition, the same authorities will establish supply chains for easy movement of goods from wholesalers to local markets.

The District Commissioners or Chief Executive Officers, as the case may be, will prescribe the supermarket that may be opened in Local Councils.

2. Movement of people

Movement of any person other than of persons exempt under the rules or under circumstances prescribed is prohibited. Those employed are not allowed to move except where they are supplying essential goods and services. Where possible, employees are encouraged to stay at or work from home. Movement for acquisition of basic necessities shall be restricted.

Anyone who wants to get essential service out of his or her locality shall get a permit from the Local Council or any delegated person to issue such permits by the Local Council. In the same vein, any person who wants an essential service outside his or her district shall get a permit from the Chief Executive Officer or District Commissioner. Local Councils shall communicate the manner of applying for the permits within their jurisdiction, including telephone numbers through which information may be shared regarding the permits.

3. Entertainment, public events and works

All bottle stores, pubs, bars and clubs, including in all hospitality facilities, shall be closed.

All cultural events and activities are suspended.

All sporting activities are suspended.

Weddings, engagement ceremonies, bridal showers, send offs and all gatherings of public and social in nature are suspended.

Funerals shall comply with social distance restrictions and be attended by a maximum of 50 people. In this case, observation of COVID-19 sanitary and hygienic measures is a requirement at all funerals. Funeral ceremonies shall be conducted in the shortest time possible.

Fast food outlets, restaurants and public eating places shall be closed to the public except for take away services. All residents in hospitality facilities shall be served in their rooms. All persons eating within facilities shall not use enclosed spaces to have meals.

4. Gatherings

All gatherings of more than ten people are suspended.

5. Transport

Public transport (minibuses, tricycles, taxis, bicycles and motorcycles and taxis) will only be allowed primarily to offer services to essential services staff and cater for emergencies from 5.00 am to 9.00am in the mornings, and from 4.00 pm to 7.00 pm in the evenings.

No public transport vehicle shall be allowed to loiter or linger around for passengers outside these hours.

No public transport operator shall operate a vehicle without proper ventilation.

All public transport vehicles shall ensure that social distancing is observed and sanitary and hygienic materials are provided on board.

All operators of public service vehicles and crew shall at all times, use personal protective equipment.

Air transport services remain suspended with the exception of supplies for essential goods and services and returning passengers. In all cases, air transport services shall be offered with prior arrangements with the Minister.

Locomotive passenger transport shall be allowed to operate between Liwonde and Nayuchi only. However, locomotive goods transport shall continue operating without any restrictions but shall follow COVID-19 sanitary and hygienic measures.

Water transport services will only operate between Nkhatabay and Likoma.

All other private and institutional vehicles are also suspended except with permission from enforcement authorities.

Persons performing essential services or supplying essentials goods shall be given a permit by the District Commissioner or Chief Executive Officer or delegated officers.

6. Construction

Construction works are suspended except under the following conditions:

(a) A camp is provided at the construction site for construction workers so that the workers are isolated from the public during the lockdown;

(b) Where a camp is not provided for on site, transport is provided for workers to travel from a camp to the construction site; or

(c) The works involve the operation of a single operator machine or plant at the construction site.

7. Other services to be allowed

Harvesting of crops within prescribed hours and with strict observance of sanitary and hygienic conditions.

Grazing of livestock within prescribed hours and with strict observance of sanitary and hygienic conditions.

Operation of maize mills within prescribed hours and with strict observance of sanitary and hygienic conditions.

Marketing of agricultural products including tobacco auction floors.

And all essential services as provided for under these Rules.

8. Mitigation

Government is aware of the hardship and inconvenience that the Lockdown will inflict on the population during the 21days and afterwards. On 20th March, 2020 His Excellency the President declared a state of disaster over the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent to this declaration, the mitigation and relief measures provided for under the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act (Cap. 33:05) have been invoked in order to avert the consequent suffering of Malawians in form of social safety nets to the vulnerable groups who live a hand to mouth type of subsistence.

I shall in due course announce the specific measures that Government shall implement.

9. Enforcement

These measures shall be enforced by enforcement officers as prescribed under the Rules.

The Malawi Defence Force, the Malawi Police Service and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services shall be deployed to ensure strict compliance with these measures.

Local Councils remain empowered under the Public Health Act to commence civil and criminal proceedings in order to enforce the measures prescribed under these Rules.

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