Severity: Warning Alert

Entry/Exit: High Court in Malawi indefinitely extends the lockdown injunction April 28. Other movement restrictions remain in place.

This alert affects Malawi

This alert began 30 Apr 2020 14:15 GMT and is scheduled to expire 14 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: International flight ban, transportation and business disruptions; possible freight delays

The High Court in Malawi extended indefinitely an injunction blocking the government from implementing a nationwide stay-at-home order, April 28. Following the injunction, President Peter Mutharika outlined several relief measures, including cash grants and limited financial support to small businesses, increased health services, and the creation of a ministerial task force to coordinate a response to the pandemic. The government continues to maintain several other restrictions.

  • All international flights have been suspended. Repatriation flights are possible.
  • Land borders are reportedly open; however, delays at crossings are likely due to enhanced screening measures.
  • Returning residents to self-quarantine for 14-days.
  • All schools, bars, and restaurants have been closed. Restaurants are restricted to take-out and delivery service.
  • Gatherings of more than 100 people are banned.

All restrictions are subject to amendment at short notice in response to government reviews and may receive updates or extensions in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
The order follows a temporary injunction against nationwide movement restrictions by the court on April 17, following a legal challenge by the opposition-aligned human rights group, Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (MHRDC), which argued that the state had failed to prepare any form of relief for citizens affected by the closure of nonessential businesses and restrictions on travel. The ban was extended for 5 days April 24.

Mutharika declared a state of disaster April 14 as part of measures to stem the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and stated his intention to implement a nationwide stay-at-home order from April 19; the announcement prompted protests in several areas of Malawi April 16-17, including in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Limbe, Mangochi, Kasungu, and Mzuzu. Protesters blocked roads with rocks, trees, burning tires, and other debris, leading to clashes with security forces. Other measures, including a flight suspension, are likely to persist through May.

COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions.

Reconfirm all planned travel arrangements. Plan accordingly for protracted commercial, transport, and logistics disruptions. Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Consider delaying travel if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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