Impeccable sources in government have told News Diggers that Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, his Foreign Affairs counterpart Joe Malanji and Permanent Secretary Chalwe Lombe are in quarantine, after returning from Namibia where they went to attend the inauguration of that country’s president about 10 days ago.
And Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says two of the locally transmitted COVID-19 cases are individuals who hail from Chaisa and Jack Compounds.
Meanwhile, And Dr Chilufya has announced that Zambia has in the last 24 hours recorded one more case of COVID-19 bringing the total to 36.
Namibia has recorded three confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus, and it is believed that one of the infected persons attended the national event, thereby forcing foreign dignitaries like the three Zambian government officials to go into isolation on return, as a precaution measure.
Dr Chilufya confirmed during a teleconference with the Vice-President yesterday that some government officials at PS level and higher were in quarantine because they may have been exposed to the virus, but declined to name the officials.
Updating Vice-President Inonge Wina during a ministerial teleconference meeting, Tuesday, Dr Chilufya said high profile cases had been reported.
“Your Honor, we reported high profile cases and in the context of the meeting that we are having today, I must announce that there are some PSs and even higher ranking government officials than PS that today are in quarantine because they were in close contact,” Dr Chilufya said but before he could give more information, he was informed that the media was present in the meeting.
Vice-President Wina then guided him to save the details for tomorrow’s meeting.
Government sources wondered why government was stigmatising the infected victims.
“Of course the ministers who are in quarantine are those that travelled to Namibia for the inauguration. These include Kampyongo, Malanji and his PS Lombe. I don’t think it’s necessary for government to hide these names like they have done something wrong. If anything, they have done the right thing by heeding to doctors’ advice and self isolating. This should be a case which government can use to demonstrate that there is no stigma and these ministers are trying to help the situation by going into quarantine,” said a source.
If anything, these minister have not been confirmed to have the Coronavirus, that has not been revealed. What we know at this stage is that they are in quarantine as a precaution measure. The only sad thing is that when they came back from Namibia, they first interacted with other government officials while other even attended Cabinet meeting. Otherwise we don’t know if they are confirmed cases.”
And speaking at the daily COVID-19 briefing later, Dr Chilufya refused to give more information about the high ranking government officials saying it was against his medical ethics.
“We have been giving these updates for many days now and I have never come here with a name of an individual. I will discuss this report on this update in the confines of the ethics on the practices of medicine and we will protect the rights of the patients that come in our contacts. I don’t see any reason why we should get excited when I talk about a PS when we have not gotten excited when we have talked about 36 cases that are positive and I have never mentioned a name. So, I speak both as politician and as a medical doctor who has taken oath to ensure that in line with the oath, I do protect the integrity of the data that comes in to my contact and also protect the rights of the patients that we deal with,” Dr Chilufya said.
“All high profile individuals have the right to actually tell anybody their status in terms of COVID; or in terms of HIV and it is not a hidden thing but any health worker globally will not disclose the condition of a person without their consent. So, it is permissible for any high profile person to come up in the open; it is part of advocacy as part of any program to say I have been tested and I am positive or to give consent to a help worker to say disclose my status.”
He said as a matter of urgency, government was dotting Chaisa, Emmasdale, Eureka area in Lilayi and Ibex Hill as risk areas where they desperately needed to interrupt the person to person transmission cycle.
Dr Chilufya said a driver who picked up the people who had travelled to Pakistan and a maid to one of them were among those who had tested positive for the virus, which was alarming because they came from densely populated areas; Chaisa and Jack Compound.
“The local epidemic shows 36 cases. If we unzip and characterize these cases individually, your honor, you would realise that 25 of these cases are part of the people that traveled to Pakistan and to Iran. Nine are victims who have come into contact with the people that came back from Pakistan. Two are people that came from France. Let us look at the nine that came into contact with people that came from Pakistan. Who are they? One is the driver who picked the people who came from Pakistan from the airport and this driver comes from Jack Compound. Two is the maid for one of the members who traveled to Pakistan and this maid comes from Chaisa Compound. Three is a medical doctor who is from Asian origin who has been in contact with those who came from Pakistan by having specific arrangement to have looked at them in private arrangement,” Dr Chilufya said.
“Your honor, the fourth is a runner who actually goes to various parts of the country on behalf of the members of these people from Pakistan, not only came in contact with them but also had history of having traveled to South Africa. Your honor, the other contact that have come out positive are those who traveled on the same plane with the people who came from Pakistan, met with them in Dubai and sat close to them and were picked up together with those people who came from Pakistan. The significance [of this] today, your honor, is that Zambia…we can safely say that we don’t have imported cases but we have cases that are born out of human to human transmission and that should be alarming and that should change our course of direction. We need to desperately interrupt the person to person transmission cycle.”
He identified areas where government would concentrate on.
“The Compounds we are referring to as producing cases that are part of our lines are densely populated compounds. Your honor, if we dot the map in Zambia and pick where these cases are coming from, we will dot Chaisa, Jack Compound, Emmasdale, Eureka in Lilayi area there, we will dot Ibex Hill,” he said.
And Dr Chilufya announced that Zambia had recorded one more case of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours bringing the total number of cases recorded to 36.
At the routine press conference, Dr Chilufya encouraged people to wear masks for safety.
“A critical intervention that I would like to speak about today is the issue of wearing masks. It is important that all those who can wear masks should wear masks. This creates barriers from the person who is exhaling or introducing to the air space the virus, a barrier between that person and yourself and if you too are coughing out or sneezing, it also creates a barrier for the next person. Use of masks should be encouraged in the work place; in the markets; on the streets let us ensure that we use masks,” he said.
Dr Chilufya said government had identified and transformed Courtyard Hotel and other facilities to be hospitals for isolation.
“Government has identified more facilities that will be transformed into hospitals, therefore invoking powers in the statutory instrument 21 and 22 and the public health act, the Courtyard hotel is now proclaimed as a hospital for isolation. The Courtyard will be a hospital or isolation where we will put stable patients who are positive but do not require immediate intensive clinical care management. They will be under our staff and the place will be managed, guarded to ensure there will be no entry and exit and there will be trained staff who will look after those positive patients but we will restrict the use of Levy Mwanawasa for those who will require intensive management,” said Dr Chilufya.
“We are also declaring another facility within Makeni which has a 200 bed capacity into a hospital and this will also be able to accommodate more cases. The Victoria Hospital in Longacres is also going to accommodate new cases.”