HEALTH Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says Zambia has not recorded any new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours while five people have been discharged after recovering.

Meanwhile, Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says government never closed any churches but rather urged churches to adhere to the statutory instruments 21 and 22 signed on the public health act in prevention of COVID-19.

At his daily update briefing today, Dr Chitalu said out of 226 tests conducted, zero were positive.

“In the last 24 hours our multi-sectoral teams have been on the ground and have continued to do mass screening and targeted testing in selected parts of Lusaka and the Copperbelt. In the last 24 hours, we conducted 226 tests and non of these tests came out positive. Therefore, we recorded zero positive cases. Furthermore, we had five who had tested negative twice consecutively; these have been discharged. Therefore, that leaves our cumulative number of cases at 84 with three deaths and a total of 42 people who have recovered. Active cases under our management remain to be 39 in Lusaka, Copperbelt and Central Province. So as we speak today, we have 39 patients who are under our care, all generally stable including the one who had an underline condition of severe Malaria,” Dr Chilufya said.

Dr Chilufya said out of the eight cases that were discovered yesterday, three were from Chalala and one was from Kafue while the rest were health personnel.

“Yesterday, the eight cases that we had, we had four health workers from within Lusaka and we had one from the mass screening in Kafue and we had three from Chalala; this is a family that wanted to travel outside the country and they sought certification so that we certify them COVID free. So, we did a routine testing and they were found to be positive and they are now admitted to our isolation facility and our health workers equally have joined their colleagues at the facility. It is also important to note that two of the health workers have recovered fully and have been discharged. The Marapodi family all the epidemiological links that were initially suspected have not yielded; so, we have not found any positive cases in that contact,” Dr Chilufya said.

Dr Chilufya said government would not hesitate to ban or revoke any licence of any particular body or religious grouping that would not adhere to SI 21 and 22.

“Consistency in policy is what I have been emphasizing. The President said public gatherings were banned and the cautious reopening of any public gathering of category was clearly outlined and subject to the public health act 295, the regulations and guidelines and the certifications by authorized officers. So, you are 20,000 people in this congregation there is no way you are going to have one meter apart and be able to congregate and you say you are unable to meet the guidelines and regulations of the public health act. No one will say go and congregate. Should you say you are able to meet this rules, please come and check on us and see how you guide us on ensuring that we do this and if you ensure that we do this we will come and guide, and if you think we have met the regulations, we will say we have certified you,” said Dr Chilufya.

“The law enforcement officers will be on board to ensure compliance because if there is no compliance, the President clearly stated there shall be a reversal, even a risk of revocation of licence on what you do because then you will be putting the public at risk.”

Meanwhile, during the same briefing, Siliya said churches had not closed.

“Nothing has changed. The churches were not banned; we restricted the holding of church gatherings to an hour and that people must observe the guidelines as witnessed by the Ministry of Health, that is exactly the same position today as given by the President yesterday. All that happened is the wisdom most of the leadership in the various faiths; the Christian and the Muslim faiths said to government because this disease has just come into Zambia in March and we did not have enough information, many leaders opted that they were not going have any congregations at all,” said Siliya.

“As far as government is concerned and as directed by the Ministry of Health through public health, it was that congregations of any public gatherings of any sort including congregations had to be certified by the Ministry of Health. Most of the churches, most of them had challenges of providing the necessary sanitation for their congregants and opted that maybe to keep their congregants safe, it’s better they shut down their churches. Government did not ban churches gatherings and the position is still the same today.”