MINISTER of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya says five health workers from Levy Mwanawasa Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the countrywide total to 70.

And Dr Chiufya says they are investigating a suspicious death that occurred at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) on Monday, involving a 52-year-old Choma resident who had known asthmatic conditions.

At his briefing yesterday, Dr Chilufya saluted health workers for risking their lives to take care of COVID-19 patients.

He added that the five new cases brought the total number of health workers with COVID-19 to eight.

“This morning (yesterday), the Republican President, His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu notes with regret that five health workers working at the Levy Mwanawasa COVID-19 center have tested positive for COVID-19 after having served the people of Zambia for two weeks in the facility. The President sends message of goodwill to the health workers at the frontline and those infected and the family. He makes a strong pledge of support to health workers at the front line. While we are all here ducking away from COVID-19, protecting ourselves, staying home and staying safe, health workers, he notes, are at the frontline facing the enemy. He sends his message of encouragement and continues to recognise you as the heroes and heroines of the fight against Covid-19 and you are the true patriots,” Dr Chilufya said.

“Therefore, the number of COVID-19 cases in Zambia has risen by five and all these five are health workers serving at the Levy Mwanawasa COVID-19 center. It brings a total number of health workers who have been affected now to eight. The total number of cases in the country has therefore risen to 70 and the death rate remains at three. We have in our various facilities 32 people under care. 29 are in Lusaka, two on the Copperbelt and one is in Kabwe. All the patients are stable.”

Dr Chilufya said they had re-enforced measures in the health care setting in order to minimise the risk of health workers contracting the virus.

He added that health workers had since been re-trained on how to handle the pandemic.

“In order to minimise the risk of health care workers contracting Covid-19 through exposure in the work environment, we have re-enforced the measures in our communities and also in our work places in the health care setting. The following additional stringent measures have been instituted: All the staff have been re-trained and re-oriented in infection prevention and control practices as part of continuous medical education. Further, we have assigned a dedicated senior member of staff in each shift to enforce compliance to Infection Prevention and Control measures as the health workers are on duty,” Dr Chilufya said.

“Thirdly, we have increased the buffer stock of Personal Protective Equipment to guarantee availability of PPE supplies for all staff at all times. The buffer stock has been increased. As we speak right now, we have adequate stocks of PPEs for all our health workers but to ensure that there is no disruption we have increased the buffer stock. Further, thorough and regular de-contamination of all surfaces has been re-enforced and this has called for more man power. And therefore, we have reenforced man power for that category.”

And Dr Chiufya said they were investigating a suspicious death that occurred at UTH on Monday.

“As part of our surveillance in our health care facilities, we are investigating a suspicious death that occurred in the University Teaching Hospital yesterday (Monday) which involves a 52-year-old resident of Choma. This man was a known asthmatic who fell ill last week and was treated at a local health facility in Choma after a diagnosis of Malaria was made. His condition deteriorated and he subsequently traveled to attend a private hospital in Lusaka for further medical attention. He was referred to UTH but he unfortunately died a few hours upon arrival at the emergence department at UTH. Samples have been collected for further investigation, including to rule out Covid-19. An update shall be provided on this matter in due course,” he said.

Dr Chilufya further said in addition to Kafue and Chilenje, they were now targeting Emmasdale and Chaisa for mass screening this week.

“We therefore continue to do mass screening in the communities and targeted testing in order for us to quickly identify and isolate cases of COVID-19 to halt any community spread. In addition to Kafue and Chilenje, we are now targeting Emmasdale, Chaisa this week and later on other parts of Lusaka. Yesterday (Monday’s) operation, approximately 600 persons were screened and tested in Chilenje. Kafue alone, we have screened over 2,000 members of the community and we will continue updating you as the results pop up,” he said.

“The mass screening exercise in Kafue is ongoing. But the good news is that from the exercise that was done yesterday (Monday) in Chilenje and Kafue, the tests that have so far been processed, a total of 322 tests, non came out positive.”

He also said COVID-19 had found Zambia battle ready because of the strengthening of health system program that was already taking place but added that there was a lot that they would do using the principals of health security and infection prevention.

Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya reiterated the need for frequent hand washing, wearing of face masks, keeping environments clean, staying home, among others.