PEOPLE’S Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda says the Ministry of Health is putting the lives of members of the public at risk by withholding information regarding people who have tested positive to coronavirus.

During his daily updates, Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya announced that 51 direct contacts of the Kafue man who died of COVID-19 on Wednesday had been traced and all tested negative

“All the contacts of the patients, the family, and the health patients he came in contact with, the stakeholders in the intensive care unit were all swabbed and investigated. So, 51 swabs or test samples were collected from family associates, from family members, friends, people who he came in contact with on his journey and we have established that all the 51 contacts are negative of COVID-19. Further, we did conduct tests on another 23 patients including alerts and repeats and all the 23 were negative. In total, 74 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours and none was positive. Therefore, that leaves the cumulative total cases for COVID-19 in Zambia at 40,” said Dr Chilufya

But the following day, Dr Chilufya said one person who was a primary contact to the deceased Kafue man tested positive to COVID-19.

“In the last 24 hours, Zambia has recorded three new cases of COVID-19. The first case involves a 58-year-old man who is a contact to a confirmed case that traveled to one of the COVID high risk jurisdictions and the second is his 13-year-old daughter. The third case involves a 41-year-old female who is a primary contact to the patient that died at the University Teaching Hospital and was followed up as part of the people that came into contact with him in the last 14 days,” said Dr Chilufya.

Health officials at the University Teaching hospital who spoke on conditions of anonymity revealed to News Diggers that the Ministry of Health was aware of the Kafue COVID-19 case last week, but opted not to announce it until the infected person had died.

“This Kafue death has actually exposed the fact that Ministry of Health has not been been very truthful with updates. The patient was admitted on Sunday, and was swabbed for COVID-19 on Tuesday, after his condition deteriorated. Positive results came out the following day which was a Wednesday, so why did the Minister announce zero new cases on this day. The only reason the result was finally announced was because health staff raised alarm. Even then they wanted to claim the result was not for him until they had to do a postmortem which confirmed the earlier result, but by then, the person had already died. As a result of the manner this case was handled a number of health staff at Kafue General Hospital, specifically the referral nurse and the driver who drove the patient to UTH were exposed,”said the source.

“Ask the Minister to dispute the fact that the deceased Kafue person was tested before he died and the result came out positive which they had to reconfirm after he died.”

Commending on the development, Banda said the turn of events exposed weakness in the health system.

“It is not clear how that person got the virus. I think the Kafue case has exposed some of the weaknesses there are in the screening of those that are suspected to have coronavirus. That is clear indication that something is lagging, that is very dangerous and it exposed the Ministry of Health. I think they need to learn from there and find a way to ensure that, that gap is closed. There is a lot of work that they need to do,” Banda said.

“I think the implications are clear that they are putting our lives at risk by not doing their jobs correctly and by not saying the truth. Because there is no way they can say one thing today and something else the following day. The fact that they didn’t know that the person had coronavirus it also shows that there is something that we don’t know that is not happening somewhere. Discovering the case after someone had died and that person was not in isolation I think that is quite dangerous and it puts the public in a risk situation because you don’t know the networks of that person, they might have gotten on transport going to Lusaka or Southern Province. I think they need to up their game and put up measures that will help to ensure that new cases are detected in time as opposed to when someone has died,”

And Banda lamented that the tests that were currently done in a day were not enough.

“I think the tests that they are doing per day are not enough. There is no way they can be doing 75 tests a day, that is not enough for such a situation. In Kafue for example, we would have expected them to conduct one thousand tests or even more so that we are sure that we are safe. As it stands, I think it is frightening that the ministry has some weaknesses in the system.” said Banda.