Transport Minister Sidik Mia and Local Government Minister Lingson Berekanyama have died after contracting an illness, according to the government.
Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of disaster in an address to the nation delivered hours after two cabinet ministers died from COVID-19 amid a spike in coronavirus infections.
Transport Minister Sidik Mia and Local Government Minister Lingson Berekanyama both succumbed to the disease in the early hours of Tuesday, the government spokesman said.
Chakwera in his speech called the deaths “an incalculable loss,” according to local media outlet Nyasa Times. The government announced three days of mourning starting Tuesday.
THREE-DAY PERIOD OF NATIONAL DEATH pic.twitter.com/uODUK4IMz4
– Government of Malawi🇲🇼 (@MalawiGovt) January 12, 2021
They were prominent members of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the main partner in an alliance that toppled former President Peter Mutharika in June of last year.
The deaths follow a cabinet meeting and other rallies attended by politicians over the Christmas period, but officials have not indicated where the victims were infected.
All 31 members of the Malawian cabinet attended the meeting in the President’s Oval Office on December 21, and the next day Labor Minister Ken Kandodo said he had contracted the coronavirus. He has since recovered. Another minister, Rashid Gaffar, is self-isolating at home.
Former Malawi central bank governor Francis Perekamoyo and senior information ministry secretary Ernest Kantchentche also died of the disease, the government said.
Chakwera called an emergency meeting of the COVID-19 task force on Tuesday to release potential new measures.
This gives the Covid-19 task force more power to introduce more stringent measures (but not a lockdown, which requires a state of emergency). It also allows the release of additional funds for Covid-19 measures
– Big Zomba Man (@bonidulani) January 12, 2021
Malawi is facing a resurgence in coronavirus cases, with around 30 percent of confirmed infections recorded in the past two weeks alone.
The country recorded 452 new COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths on Monday, the highest daily average since the first case was confirmed in April, Presidential COVID Task Force Co-Chair John Phuka said in a statement.
He said Malawi now had a cumulative total of 9,027 confirmed cases and 235 related deaths. Some 1,852 of the cases were imported cases, mostly from returnees from South Africa, where a new, highly contagious variant of the virus was discovered.
Chakwera previously blamed the peak on a decrease in alertness during the holiday season.
“We all need to stand up together and do what the health experts tell us to do,” Chakwara said in his speech on Tuesday.
“Each of us should wear a mask in public, socially distanced and wash our hands… we are fighting for our life and our future.”