Places of worship have been closed, mask-wearing will be enforced with fines, and bar-goers cannot drink on the premises

New Covid-19 measures announced in Malawi over the weekend have met with a backlash, with at least one civil society organisation threatening to take the government to court.

In the new restrictions, public gatherings of more than 10 people have been banned, except for funerals which can have up to 50 people in attendance.

Wearing of face masks is mandatory in all public spaces and offenders could be fined up to $13 (£10). Places of worship have been closed. Bars can operate for six hours a day, between 14:00 to 20:00 local time, but only sell takeaways.

The new measures were prompted by a recent increase in coronavirus cases in the country, the ministry of health said.

Similar measures announced by the previous administration of President Peter Mutharika – which also included a 21-day lockdown – were blocked by a court pending determination. No verdict has been made on the matter.

Church leaders have voiced concern over the new government restrictions on public gatherings. The influential Catholic Church said it was never consulted.

A local civil society organisation, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), has said it will take the government to court for ignoring the court order.

Health Minister Khumbize Chiponda has since issued a statement promising to engage religious leaders “in further consultation”.

More than 4,600 Malawians have tested positive for Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, and at least 146 have died.