HEALTH Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya has signed and brought into force two statutory instruments which will restrict public gatherings and and non essential movements, among other measures, in a bid to enhance preparedness, surveillance and response to the imminent threat of COVID-19.

During a press briefing, Saturday, Dr Chilufya said the statutory instruments would also ensure mandatory quarantine of all travelers from high-risk areas for a minimum period of 14 days.

“Key measures brought into force with immediate effect include: Mandatory reporting of all individuals suspected to have COVID- 19 to health officials. Mandatory isolation of all suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. Mandatory collection of all relevant specimens for diagnosis and management of COVID-19. Closure of any premises that pose a public health threat linked to COVID-19. A mandatory requirement for the provision of adequate and accessible facilities for hand hygiene at all public places including shopping malls, markets and other trading places, restaurants, bars, bus stations, places of worship, schools, offices, and other congregate settings. Hand hygiene facilities should include soap and running water, or alcohol-based hand sanitisers. A requirement for all public places including schools and training institutions, shopping malls, markets, trading places, restaurants, bars, bus stations, places of worship, and other congregate settings to adhere to and practice high levels of hygiene standards, including ensuring the provision of adequate water and sanitation facilities,” Dr Chilufya said.

“School authorities, leaders of religious institutions, employers and community leaders are required to disseminate information on health practices, including for the prevention of COVID-19, to their constituents. Restriction of close personal contact such as handshakes and hugs, particularly in congregate settings such as schools, offices, places of worship, and others. Social distancing of at least one meter is encouraged when an individual is showing respiratory symptoms such as cough and sneezing. Individuals showing such symptoms are urged to stay at home and avoid interacting with the public. Restriction of unnecessary public gatherings. Restriction of non-essential foreign travel. Mandatory cleaning of surroundings and proper management of waste within communities, trading places, and other public places.”

He said all transport operators were required to submit all relevant information and documentation that maybe used in the detection and management of COVID 19.

“Mandatory screening of international travelers including truckers, bus operators, and passengers at points of entry, bus stations and other check points that may be set up from time to time. Authorities at all points of entry, including airports, harbours, railway stations and ground crossings are required to put in place all necessary provisions to promote hygiene and facilitate infection prevention and control during passenger transit and transfer,” he added.
” Operators of passenger vehicles, aeroplanes, marine transport, and other conveyances are required to put in place all necessary provisions to promote hygiene and facilitate infection prevention and control during operations. This includes provision of health information on COVID-19 and other health matters. In addition, transport operators are required to submit all relevant information and documentation that may be useful in detection and management of COVID-19.”

Dr Chilufya said public gatherings like churches and other gatherings would be required to reduce the number of hours they hold their gatherings.

“We are restricting public gatherings and by restricting public gatherings, we are saying only essential public gatherings that are cleared by our policies will be allowed. Let me be clear about the issue of churches; churches need to reduce the hours they communicate; churches need to introduce hand washing facilities; people need to wash their hands as they go into church and as they go out. Churches need to introduce a slot where they disseminate key information on the COVID 19. This is not peculiar to this outbreak, this happened during the Cholera outbreak. Let me emphasize that if we work together and adhere to this, there will be no need for us to escalate to banning all public gatherings,” Dr Chilufya explained.

“We will only clear public gatherings that we are confident will not put the public at risk and that do not hold people on a concrete setting for too long. If you have a public gathering that you have been planning, please engage our technical people at the Zambia National for Public Health Institute for advice for whether the meeting will take place or two: if it is going to take place and three: what is the interaction period or time. So we are using words such as restrictions for the state at which we are. We haven’t recorded a case and we are using words such as restrictions when the pandemic evolves and we start seeing cases and rapid spread we will escalate it to another level where we will not use words as restriction but we will use words such as ban!”

Dr Chilufya warned that failure to comply with the regulations would constitute an offence liable to penalties stipulated in the regulations

“I wish to appeal to all citizens to exercise high levels of hygiene and comply with these measures which are aimed at safeguarding the health and well being of the Zambian public. Health inspectors and authorized officers shall from time-to-time visit public premises to ensure compliance and enforce these regulations.Failure to comply with the regulations shall constitute an offence and individuals shall be liable, upon conviction, to penalties stipulated in the regulations,” said Dr Chilufya.