Malawi’s High Court on Friday temporarily barred the government from implementing a 21-day lockdown to curb coronavirus following a petition by a human rights group.
The Human Rights Defenders Coalition argued that the government had failed to announce any measures to cushion the poor during the lockdown.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa. More than half of its population live below the poverty threshold.
The organisation’s chairman, Gift Trapence, said the court had granted them temporary relief pending a judicial review in seven days.
“Yes, we have been granted the injunction,” he told AFP. “So, what it means is that there is no lockdown for the next seven days.”
The court did not give reasons for its stay order.
On Thursday and Friday, thousands of angry market traders marched in the capital Lilongwe and in the cities of Blantyre and Zomba, to protest against the lockdown.
They have vowed to disregard the shutdown, saying it will devastate workers who live hand-to-mouth.
President Peter Mutharika had announced a three-week lockdown starting on Sunday and saids the measure “may be extended” if needed.
The southeast African country has recorded 17 cases of coronavirus, two of them fatal.