HEALTH Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya has urged Zambians to avoid listening to lunatics who are discouraging them from using cloth face masks in the prevention of COVID-19, saying they are scientifically proved to work in the absence of surgical masks.

And Dr Chilufya says Zambia has recorded four new cases of COVID-19 as at yesterday, from 600 tests which were conducted, bringing the total number of cases to 65.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia in an interview with Radio Phoenix News yesterday expressed concern that cloth face masks that people were making to protect themselves from COVID-19 had zero per cent protection.

Society president, Jerome Kanyika argued that there was no scientific evidence to show that cloth face masks could prevent COVID-19 and that different research conducted indicated that the masks had zero per cent protection against the virus.

But at a briefing yesterday, Dr Chilufya charged that people should avoid listening to lunatics.

“I want to use this opportunity to assure those of you who may have read toxic articles like an article from Pharmaceutical Society of Zambia about face masks. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have glorified that comment with a response but due to the gravity of the situation, I will say, if you read a beautiful article done by the America Centre for Disease Control that talks about the efficacy of a mask made of cloth, then you will know that this is evidence based, it’s science based and just mask up and avoid listening to lunatics. Make sure that you use a cloth mask, and make sure that you use a mask which is surgical,” Dr Chilufya said.

“A responsible citizen who wants to contribute to the fight against COVID and has any scientific contribution will engage and will not go and vuvuzela in the media, mislead the people and put them at risk. Listen to science based evidence, use a cloth made mask or use a surgical mask. For the home face mask made of cloth, wash it, iron it and you can use it daily. For the surgical mask, you can use it for six to eight hours daily, dispose of it.”

And Dr Chitalu said three of the four new COVID-19 cases that were recorded yesterday were out of mass screening in Kafue, while the other case involved a 22-year-old male who was a primary contact to the lady that passed on at Chilenje Hospital.

He added that so far, 35 had recovered while 27 were under care but stable, whereas mortality remained at three.

“We tested 600 cases in the last 24 hours [and] out of these 600 cases, four new positives were picked. Three are out of the mass screening in Kafue and one as a primary contact to the deceased lady in Chilenje. In the last 24 hours, two have fully recovered. Therefore, the number of people that have recovered and sent home is 35. The number of people that have remained under our care is 27. These 27 are all stable and are being managed at Levy [Mwanawasa Hospital] and Masaiti [Hospital] in Ndola. Our mortality remains at three,” Dr Chilufya said.

“We have constituted teams to continue mass screening in Kafue, to do contact tracing for the Chilenje case and for the new positives in Kafue. The number of cumulative tests done has risen to 3,186. Kafue continues to be a hotspot [and] that’s why the mass screening will continue.”

Dr Chilufya further observed that if people did not stop unnecessary movements or visiting other people, there would be COVID-19 cases all over.

He reiterated President Edgar Lungu’s call to stay home and stay safe, saying COVID-19 was a phase which would come to pass.

And Dr Chilufya said Zambia would not win the Covid-19 war if people thought it was the Ministry of Health’s burden to distribute face masks and and other PPEs.

“We will not win this war if we think it’s the burden of the Ministry of Health to distribute face masks and to distribute PPEs or to procure these. Remember that whatever has been distributed has been due to the kindness [and] the generosity of somebody out there. So it is our responsibility to participate. The association of the Indian Community in Zambia have pledged a million face masks. The Lusaka Health Association did some face masks. We have seen a number of partners; Trade Kings, public service unions, banks, businessmen all come to donate. And these donations are not being stored in the ministry. They are various members of parliament that have taken these PPEs to distribute in their various constituencies, more-so in Lusaka where the epicentre is,” said Chilufya.

“The Ministry of Health does not have adequate masks to give to every individual and is anchoring on the partnership with the private sector, with few in the community, to ensure that we work together to mobilise resources for masks so that as masks come in they will be distributed to the needy. I want to appreciate members of the community, as we went out in the morning [yesterday] a lot of them had masks which they just made from home using cloth. That is responsibility.”