President Edgar Lungu says Zambia now has 12 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus disease, and has since directed the shut down of all bars, night clubs, cinemas and restaurants.

President Lungu has also directed that all international flights to and from Zambia will have to land and take off from Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport while the rest of the airports suspend international traffic.

The Head of State said all visitors entering Zambia who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 will be quarantined at health facilities, while those without symptoms would be forced into quarantine for 14 days at their own cost.

Speaking during his rare national address, Wednesday, President Lungu said 11 of the 12 detected Coronavirus cases had travelled abroad in recent weeks where they acquired the disease, and that only one got the infection through being in contact with the travellers.

“My government has been taking proactive measures even before the current cases were identified and pronounced. I went ahead and directed that schools, colleges and universities be closed prematurely to protect pupils and students; teachers and lecturers. Exactly nine days after the first two COVID-19 cases were announced, 10 more cases have now been identified bringing the number to twelve. Eleven of them had travelled abroad in recent weeks and acquired the disease from outside the country. One had come into contact with them locally, and they have all been quarantined,” President Lungu said.

“In coming up with measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, my government has devised a phased strategy that will take into consideration interventions for the low and high income groups, low and high density areas, rural and urban areas. It is with this in mind that essential businesses dealing in goods and services will be kept running.I have gone round the city and I have seen for myself that many among us are not taking this COVID-19 seriously. I have seen multitudes patronising bars freely, hugging and shaking hands at funerals, contrary to health advise. Let me say this; if your lifestyle has not changed in the past few weeks, then you are doing something wrong and endangering both yourself, your neighbour and your loved ones.”

He said if Zambia finds itself under forced lock down due to its position of being a land locked country, this may lead to economic vulnerability.

“The world today faces one of its greatest adversaries that threatens mankind. The Coronavirus disease. The Coronavirus disease, also called COVID-19 has decimated lives across the world. This virus is mean, devastating and morbid. A few weeks ago, it was heard from a distance in China; today it is in the neighbourhood. Today, you and I are not safe anymore and until we comply with what the health authorities are saying, it may spread quickly and endanger our lives. Zambia is landlocked; and that means, with a crisis of this magnitude, we shall find ourselves under forced lock down if all our neighbours close their borders. This situation would make us economically vulnerable and weaker,” President Lungu.

President Lungu said government had decided to suspend all non-essential foreign travel.

“Let me now state the measures my government has started undertaking and will continue to undertake in phase one to mitigate the impact of COVID-19: Zambian missions abroad and department of immigration must be alert to review the issuance of visas for people wanting to travel to Zambia, as well as at all ports of entry into the country for all travellers from countries affected by COVID-19; Travellers will be allowed entry into Zambia, however, upon screening those who exhibit symptoms will be quarantined in a medical facility for treatment, while all other travellers without symptoms will be quarantined for at least 14 days at their own cost,” President Lungu.

“Government has suspended non-essential foreign travel, particularly, to countries which have confirmed COVID-19 cases; Public gatherings such as conferences, weddings, funerals, festivals are to be restricted to at least 50 people subject to them complying with public health authority guidelines; Restaurants must operate only on a take-away and delivery basis; All bars, night clubs, cinemas, gyms and casinos must close; All international flights to and from Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe and Mfuwe International airports are suspended. Instead, all international flights should land and depart from Kenneth kaunda International Airport only, to ensure efficient and effective screening of travellers, as well as following them up by our health authorities. The measures I have just announced shall be effected from midnight on Thursday 26th march, 2020 and shall be observed for the initial period of 14 days.”