Malawi on Wednesday closed its border for the next 14 days following a new surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

“The only people who will be allowed through the entry border posts are Malawians deported from other countries, those returning home and providers of essential services,” Information Minister Gospel Kazako said at a news briefing.

Kazako said the south eastern African nation has also restricted public gatherings to 100 people.

He also announced that Labour Minister Ken Kandodo has been hospitalized in the capital Lilongwe after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

“His condition is improving and we wish him a quick recovery,” said Kazako.

Dr John Phuka, chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, said the committee has recommended the closure of borders for the next two weeks to control the spread of imported COVID-19 cases.

“The taskforce is so far shocked with the fast rise in COVID-19 cases most of which are imported,” he said.

On Monday, Malawi reported 38 imported cases and three cases of local transmissions. The country reported 46 new cases on Tuesday.

In an update, Phuka said the imported cases were identified among 302 Malawians who returned from South Africa last week.

The country has recorded a total of 6,248 cases, including 1,275 imported infections. The death toll in the country stood at 187.

Malawi reported its first case of COVID-19 on April 2 this year.

However, the country did not impose an initially planned lockdown, following public outcry that culminated in a court order that blocked implementation of a 21-day national lockdown.

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