A medical expert has faulted Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) over plans to hold by-elections in seven constituencies next month, saying the campaign for the polls will lead to spread of Covid-19 in rural areas.
MEC will hold by-elections in Nsanje Central constituency, Nsanje North Constituency, Chikwawa East Constituency, Ntchisi North Constituency, Zomba Changalume Constituency, Lilongwe Nsinja South constituency, Karonga North West constituency, Liviridzi Ward in Balaka West constituency and Chitakale Ward in Mulanje South constituency.
Four of the constituencies are vacant after Members of Parliament for the respective constituencies died of Covid-19.
Epidemiologist Titus Divala believes MEC has rushed in conducting the elections.
“Elections, I think should have waited a few more weeks. The campaign will drive COVID-19 into rural areas where access to care is already desperate…. yet home to the oldest of our society. Probably April/May would have sounded better,” said Divala.
But Speaking on Thursday at a press briefing, MEC chairperson Chifundo Kachale said the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 Taskforce has told the commission that the positivity rates have dropped drastically from what they were.
He noted that at the height of the pandemic in mid-January, positivity rate was at over 30.4% but now it’s at 17.4% with projections that in the next two weeks it will be at 15.4% and in the next 4 weeks it will be below 10%.
“With the expectation that if that projection is maintained, it will be reasonably safe to undertake the by-elections since when we were conducting by-elections in November last year, it was at hovering around 15%,” said Kachale.
He added that the Commission has put in place measures to protect the electorate and poll workers from contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Malawi currently has 12,985 active cases. The country has recorded a total of 29,837 cases including 984 deaths and 15,568 recoveries.