Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday called off planned independence celebrations and drastically scaled back on his inauguration ceremony following a spike in coronavirus infections in the southern African country.
The cancellation of the Malawi’s independence celebration will put a dampener on the euphoria generated by the historic opposition triumph in a recent landmark election re-run after last year’s fraudulent polls were overturned.
Chakwera comfortably won the June 23 election with 58.5 per cent of the vote — beating Peter Mutharika, whose re-election last year was anulled by the courts over “grave”, “widespread and systematic” irregularities.
His formal inauguration had been slated for Monday at a giant stadium in the capital to coincide with the country’s 56th independence celebrations.
Already on Saturday, he had slashed the stadium audience by half to 20,000 to limit the virus spread.
But in an address on Sunday, the president called off the stadium festivities and shifted his inauguration event to a military barracks to be witnessed by only 100 specially-invited guests.
Malawi, which has not been placed under a lockdown, has registered 1,613 cases so far with 7 percent of those infections detected in the last 24-hour reporting cycle.
At least 64 percent 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.
“Your health and sanity is of paramount importance,” he said.
“The coronavirus is spreading…, it is spreading faster than before and it is spreading with the power to kill,” he said
Experts sounded the alarm in May as the country election campaigns got underway, attracting tens of thousands of rally goers.
A court in April court blocked the government from imposing a full lockdown because it had failed to announce any measures to cushion the vulnerable.