Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia president Jerome Kanyika says government should be more proactive in its response to the fast-spreading Coronavirus in view of the huge human traffic between Zambia and China.

But Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Abel Kabalo says the Ministry is well-equipped and capable of detecting the symptoms of the virus using scanners mounted at all major points of entry into the country.

The death toll in China from a deadly new coronavirus has quickly escalated to 132 in a fortnight, with the number of cases escalating to nearly 6,000 as Japan and the United States began evacuating hundreds of their citizens from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak.

Authorities said, Wednesday, that the number of confirmed cases across the country climbed to 5,974, while the death toll nationwide rose by 26 with Lion Air and British Airways among airlines cancelling some or all flights to China, Aljazeera reported.

And in an interview, Kanyika urged the Zambian government not take a casual approach in its effort to prevent the deadly virus from spreading into Zambia.

“What I would like to appeal to the government, I think they have taken the issue of Coronavirus in a casual way as compared to the way other countries have taken it. While we know very well that Zambia has a lot of Chinese investors who have come and every now and then, they do travel to China, including areas where this virus is more prevalent. So the government should at least take proactive action in making sure that we try by all means to screen all the people who are coming from China for this kind of virus because it’s spreading very fast and it’s every day. The number of infected people is increasing! So, government doesn’t need to take this in a casual way but they need to make sure that they take it seriously and scrutinize all the Chinese nationals that are coming in this country for the health benefit of citizens,” Kanyika urged.

He also explained why ARVs were being used on Coronavirus patients.

“I commented that following the report that the clinicians in China are giving ARVs to people with corinavirus. This virus is a viral infection so meaning that it has some other similarities in the way the virus is with other viruses. Just like the way when there was an Ebola outbreak in DRC, the first drug that the clinicians were using, they started with the ARVs. These are drugs that we use in the treatment of viral infections and coronavirus happens to be one of them. So, what they are trying to do now is to suppress the virus from spreading all over the body and killing the person fast, that they want to at least preserve the life of that person, while they are investigating on the possible treatment that can be used for this virus so this is what they are trying to do in terms of using the ARVs. ARVs can be used to slow the multiplication of or spread of the virus in the body, while we are trying to look for the correct medication, this was also done in the Ebola outbreak. What we want, now, is to reduce the multiplication of the virus in the body and that’s what ARVs are now used for in this case,” said Kanyika.

But Dr Kabalo said that the Coronavirus had manifested itself like the Ebola virus and scanners at points of entry would be able to detect anyone coming in and exhibiting symptoms of the disease.

“Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Congo, we have made sure that we train our health workers to ensure that we avoid any outbreaks spreading in the country. In addition to that, we have scanners stationed at all major points of entry. You see, the way this virus manifests itself is similar to Ebola, you have high body temperatures, which are detected by the scanners that we have stationed at points of entry. We have also ensured that we screen everyone coming into the country; we are also giving questionnaires so that we know where they have been and we are also checking their passports to ensure that the virus is not brought home. We will as a Ministry investigate the use of ARVs to suppress the virus, but it’s not possible for the drugs to be abused because we have a very controlled system that we use to distribute ARVs in the country so that should not be a problem” said Dr Kabalo, in a separate interview.