The army has been deployed in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, to quell anti-government protests.
At least eight people were killed and 44 wounded on Wednesday in clashes in the northern city of Mzuzu, hospital officials said.
The protests are against what the organisers call the worst economic crisis in Malawi since independence 47 years ago.
President Bingu wa Mutharika said the protesters were “working for satan”.
“Each time we have a problem, is it a solution to go to the streets and demonstrate? I don’t think so,” he said in a state of the nation address.
“Those of you who have started this, I know you.”
Correspondents say lorry-loads of soldiers and riot police are patrolling Lilongwe’s city centre, clearing barricades that protesters had set up.
The city centre is deserted with shops closed while there are reports of looting in neighbouring townships.
The BBC’s Raphael Tenthani in the main commercial city, Blantyre, says an army spokesman told him that soldiers were on “normal duties” in the capital.
However, their deployment shows that the government is worried about the protests, our reporter says.
The hospital in Mzuzu, some 300km (185 miles) north of Lilongwe, said eight people were killed on Wednesday and 44 treated for gun-shot wounds following clashes between protesters and riot police.
“I’m actually in the mortuary identifying the bodies,” Rev Maurice Munthali deputy Secretary General of the Church of the Central Africa Presbyterian told the BBC. “It’s very sad.”
Nurses say those killed had been shot.
Rev Munthali said that some of those in hospital had not been demonstrating but were caught in crossfire.
He said he could again hear gunfire on Thursday in Mzuzu and there was a heavy presence of security forces on the streets.
Police spokeswoman Norah Chimwala confirmed one death and more than 10 gun-shot injuries.
She could not confirm if the police had caused the death.
Civil groups which organised the nationwide protests said Malawi was facing a “series of catastrophes”.
The cost of living was rising and the country was facing acute shortages of fuel, electricity and foreign currency, they said in a statement.
“There is cause to believe that the current shortages are the worst in all our 47 years [since independence],” the statement said.
They accused the government of failing to listen to the concerns of people, and they feared Malawi was turning into an “autocratic kleptocracy”.
In his response, Mr Mutharika – who was elected in 2004 – said he was prepared to enter into dialogue with the opposition but they should stop “sending your boys” on the streets to cause chaos.
“I am asking each one of you, wherever you are, to go back to your homes and stop looting,” he said.
“By allowing these people to demonstrate violently, have we solved our problems? Do we have fuel or forex [foreign exchange]? Is this democracy? Not so.”
The government passed an austerity budget recently, raising taxes to reduce dependence on aid.
Last week, the UK cut aid to Malawi after accusing the government of handling the economy badly. Other donors have also reduced aid.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 75% of the population living on less than $1 (60p) a day.