The High Court in Malawi has blocked the government from launching a coronavirus lockdown.
The court said on Friday that the government had to prepare more to protect the poor from the blow.
The ruling could encourage similar legal challenges in other countries.
Many African countries have followed South Africa and launched forms of lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
But the extreme economic crisis that has followed has fuelled calls to relax the lockdown to allow people to survive.
One option governments are looking at is to make people wear masks instead.
The High Court case in Malawi was brought by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC). There have been protests against the planned lockdown.
The courts in Malawi have shown their independence before – in February the constitutional court overturned last year’s election, and ordered a new election.