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Malawi Musicians Obtain Injunction Against COVID-19 Ban

FILE - Many people in Malawi are expected to throng Kamuzu Stadium this week end for soccer matches following an injunction against social gathering restriction. (Lameck Masina/VOA)

A group of musicians in Malawi has obtained a court order halting enforcement of a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people to curb COVID-19. Malawi's government this week reintroduced the restrictions after a jump in confirmed cases of the virus. The musicians argue the restriction on public gatherings unfairly affects scheduled holiday concerts.

The musicians, who include Lulu, Kell Kay, Dan Lu, Skeffa Chimoto and Great Angels, say some of them had already hired international musicians to perform during their planned concerts.

Innocent Kubwalo is the lawyer for the musicians.

He says by announcing the restrictions, the Presidential Task-Force on COVID -19 flouted procedures.

“For instance, before rules and regulations or subsidiary legislation is made, it must be laid before parliament, which has not been done," said Kubwalo. "And in our opinion, the powers to make such rules in this particular case, they lie in the minister, not the committee. So the committee doesn’t have those powers in our opinion.”

Kubwalo says the injunction means all social gatherings lined up across the country can proceed.

Announcing the measures Tuesday, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 said the aim was to curb cases of the disease, which have risen by 75% over the past two weeks.

George Jobe, executive director of the Malawi Health Equity Network, says the injunction shows the government did not consult key stakeholders before it reintroduced the measures.

“Because, if they were consulted, probably, much as we appreciate the regulations, it could not have been with immediate effect," said Jobe. "It could have given room to those who have invested in certain activities unless, [the COVID-19] situation had consistently meant people were dying.”

Malawi Reintroduces COVID-19 Restrictions as Cases Surge
Malawi authorities attribute the surge to relaxed preventive measures and increased cross-border traffic for the holidays

However, the task force says it started announcing plans to reintroduce some of the restrictions two weeks ago when confirmed cases of COVID-19 started to surge.

Gospel Kazako is the spokesperson for Malawi’s government. He says the government will obey the injunction.

“We are a nation that believes in a rule of law, so we are going to comply with what the injunction has ordered us to do," said Kazako. "At the moment, we are waiting for advice from the attorney general on what we can do next.”

The High Court in Lilongwe has set December 31 for hearing on the matter and also to decide whether the injunction should be extended or not.