HEALTH Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya has announced that Zambia recorded six more Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of laboratory confirmed cases to 28.

At a media briefing today, the minister said three of the six are part of the cluster which traveled to Pakistan while the other three are their contacts.

“Today, Zambia has recorded six laboratory confirmed Covid-19 cases following laboratory confirmation in the last 24 hours. Three of the new cases are part of the cluster of the history of travel to Pakistan and another three are contacts to the confirmed COVID-19 cases. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Zambia to 28. All contacts to confirmed cases are being followed and tested; they were 20 golfers that traveled to Dubai and we have managed to round up all the 20 golfers and I am happy to report that all the 20 golfers have tested negative. We advice the golfers to stay home!” Dr Chilufya said.

“The total number of individuals tested as of end of yesterday is 335 out of whom we have this 28 that are positive. Our surveillance system is alert and anyone picked up through our ports of entry or through the alertness of the community are calling our call centers and are being tracked and are being tested and these are the results that we are revealing.”

He said government is in the process of procuring more scanners for screening to ease screening at all ports of entry.

“To ensure effective screening at ports of entry, the government with the support of partners has acquired a screening facility at the Makeni dry port. All the buses that came from outside as from yesterday dropped at Makeni Dry Port and we managed to screen with a higher level of efficiency. More thermal scanners are being procured and these will be stationed at ports of entry and this will ease the screening process to avoid crowding,” he said.

“To improve the response to alerts and follow ups of cases, we have also deployed 17 vehicles and three ambulances for Lusaka District where most cases have been and many alerts have been reported. All provincial offices have been supported with adequate transport for surveillance and responsiveness activities. I want to confirm that Eastern Province, Luapula Province, Copperbelt province all the other seven provinces are doing the exactly what Lusaka is doing.”

Dr Chilufya asked citizens not to despair because there was an aggressive surveillance and disease intelligence system in place.

“Do not despair because of the numbers we report daily; it is because of the aggressive surveillance and disease intelligence system. As the matrix of contacts tappers to zero, you see the numbers that are positive equally tapering to zero. Lusaka has 26 cases and the Copperbelt has two cases; all the cases are just in two components; they are two that came from France and no matrix and the 26 are strictly within the Pakistan matrix,” Dr Chilufya said.

He said isolation was mandatory for anyone showing symptoms.

“Quarantine is just putting you away in a safe place where you are away from any other individuals. You will have facilities and stay in that space for 14 days. Once you complete the 14 days, we will say you don’t have symptoms. The moment you exhibit symptoms, we take you to isolation facilities and we will test you and confirm your status. Quarantine is mandatory! His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has not banned entry into the country he has said ‘come in’ but you will be quarantined for 14 days until we certify you free of COVID-19,” he said.

Dr Chilufya said in the coming weeks, government would only allow essential workers to report for work in their offices.

“Avert the health catastrophes we keep the economy going; that is the delicate balance. Health and economy are linked. So, as we talk, we have the economy running so we want to ensure that we do not bring the economy to its knees. So, there is the reason why President Lungu has always called for scalable plan. I must emphasize the term lockdown seems very fancy but what does it mean? Lock down doesn’t mean that we stop buying food; lock down doesn’t mean you stop selling food; lock down doesn’t mean everything grounds to a halt!” said Dr Chilufya.

“This is the reason why this scalable plan that President Lungu has put up will ensure that we advocate for people to stay home; to exercise social distancing; to observe all other basics of hygiene while trade is going on. We are saying cargo movement should continue through the international airport; trucks bringing cargo will be allowed and will be allowed out but people who are bringing in the cargo they will be screened they will be followed up. We are delicately balancing the issue of the health of people and the economy. The economy is not de-linked from health of the population; if the population is struck by an epidemic, the economy is deprived of productivity. As the pandemic evolves, do not be surprised if the President comes to address the nation with tighter restrictions that maybe close to what we may call a total lock down but even then, it should not preclude buying food, selling food. For instance, Cabinet office has been directed by the President to distinguish clearly which are the essential services so that in the coming weeks or so, we will only allow those people who are essential workers to come to their offices and the rest will need to work from home using technology.”