THE first COVID-19 related death has been recorded in Zambia, Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya disclosed during a briefing in Lusaka, Thursday.

And three more positive cases have been reported, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 39.

During the COVID-19 daily briefing, Thursday, Dr Chilufya said the patient that had died had a history of chronic respiratory disorder and died in the early hours of yesterday.

“I am saddened to report that we have lost one of our COVID-19 patients. The said patient had an underlying chronic respiratory disorder and a history of travel to South Africa and had some contacts with cohorts who had travelled from high risk countries. Prior to his admission to our facilities while testing for COVID-19, he had been receiving care at a private medical facility in Lusaka. All his contacts have been followed up. The deceased patient stayed in our facility for six days during which time he received specialist treatment and support. Unfortunately, he succumbed to death in the early hours, about 02:00 AM. May his soul rest in peace,” Dr Chilufya said, without giving further details about the deceased.

He said out of 160 tests carried out in the last 24 hours, three more cases were recorded, bringing the total number to 39.

“All the three cases are secondary contacts to two separate COVID -19 confirmed cases; providing further information and evidence that person to person transmission is now occurring in our communities. Cumulatively, that brings Zambia’ s COVID-19 cases to 39. This is out of the 752 individuals that we have been tested by end of yesterday. All the cases that have tested positive are under our care in our isolation facilities. We continue to monitor and trace all contacts and we continue to respond to all alerts,” Dr Chilufya added.

“These are all second generation, third contacts of people that travelled to high risks countries. What we are saying is that we have a couple, one was working for a contact of a person who travelled to a high risk country and that person transmitted to the spouse; they all stay in one compound. Then the third one is a pharmacist who worked with one of the doctors who we said was positive.”

He said as person to person cases were on the increase, more strategies and interventions were needed to stop the spread of the pandemic.

“As the evidence of local transmission of person to person increases, our strategies and interventions need refining; our levels of responsibility heightened. Our commitment to measures as announced by his Excellency the Republican President of Zambia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, need to be addressed. The measures that have been prescribed in the health Act and the statutory provisions 21 and 22 need to be adhered to,” Dr Chilufya said.

“We are deeply concerned about certain public places such as markets and any other places of trade where waste management, sanitation and hygiene are inadequate. We also note that continued crowding and non-observance of social distancing practices is observed in such places. I wish to urge all market managers to ensure immediate implementation of the prescribed trading standards and hygiene requirements, failure to which, they shall be closed. Enforcement shall be enhanced, working with our colleagues in security wings to ensure we protect the greater public from this transmission. If you are trading or applying anything, you are doing it in a place that is not conducive and you are not observing social distancing, then you run the risk of being closed down.”

Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya said there were no other medical doctors that tested positive for COVID-19 except one case which his ministry had already reported on.

“I will be happy if…you got the other story before you publish and it is important to balance your stories; I don’t think that you should be getting stories from informers and go wild and publish because we don’t have those statistics. So I urge factfulness and we keep an open door policy. If you hear what you hear, come and engage with us. We are transparent. We have told you that one of our doctors did contract by interacting with the people who travelled to COVID-19 high risk countries whom he was treating privately and that is how the pharmacist got it privately. We are transparent about this so let us not alarm the public or let us not misinform the public; let us ensure that we engage. Should there be more health workers who will contract this, we will come on this same platform and inform the public,” said Dr Chilufya.

“We have noted with concern that a few media houses have been breaching ethics and respect for the privacy and rights of individuals. We are saddened by media personnel pursuing some of the COVID-19 affected individuals in the privacy of their homes and families. You are equally at risk as you do that apart from breaching the privacy of the patients. Even in this outbreak, patients continue to have their rights. I appeal to regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies to address this because it may cause a situation of people reporting alerts to the authorities for fear of being put under the spotlight.”