NATIONAL Democratic congress president Kambwili says it is too late to close the Nakonde border now because that area is already infected due to government’s negligence.
But Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says government is only adopting evidence based measures in fighting COVID-19, therefore closing the Nakonde border at this time is supported by such evidence.
In an interview, Kambwili said the Nakonde case showed that government had not imposed strict controls at border points.
“You know, this COVID issue is a time bomb and if it is not well handled we are going to cry as a nation. How many times have we asked for a partial lockdown for the borders so that we can manage and cushion this pandemic in an appropriate manner?” Kambwili asked.
“Nakonde is a transit point and also a business point for almost the entire country. Everybody from all angles of the country go to Nakonde to buy things for sale. Nakonde is an eye opener what about the border area in Chililabombwe, Kasumbalesa? What about the border area in Mufulira; Mukambo? What about the border area in Chirundu? What about the border area in Livingstone Vic falls? The numbers that they are giving us are not correct! When this thing erupts, it will be like a volcano and my worry is that we don’t have facilities.”
He said given that 76 tests out of 170 samples came out positive in Nakonde, it was clear that the virus had infected a lot of people.
“It is being unreasonable and not being practical. The best we can do is to prevent but when leaders don’t want to listen, God punishes and God forbid, spare Zambia because it is not the Zambians being careless; it is the leadership! We could have taken this decision a long time ago today, 76 people could have not been infected in Nakonde and they could even be more because that is out of the cases that were tested; They could be more in Nakonde,” Kambwili said.
” Now if Nakonde can record 75 cases in 24 hours, how many people have travelled from Nakonde? Those who have children, some of them are grade sevens, nines and 12s. Those children will go to school infect their friends; those friends will go and infect the community and relatives. This thing is a time bomb!”
Kambwili said government should have listened to the opposition on the need for a lockdown early on.
” If you have followed my discourse on this even after the President relaxed, I also condemned it because I am not seeing any seriousness in this issue. I am beginning to think that government believes it is a fight against the opposition. When we speak like that, we are only advising. The problem in this country is that even if you write a letter to the President, he will not respond. Even if you ask for appointments to see Ministers and give them advice, they will run away from you and they will be accused of being an opposition sympathizer. So the only way you can communicate to them is through a press briefing or issuing a press statement. This needs concerted efforts to fight and it is important to listen to other people’s voices! How can you surly think of opening schools even if they are examinations classes when you have been told this virus thrives very well in cold conditions. You are entering cold season that is when you go and allow children to go back to school,” said Kambwili.
“When we speak as opposition we are insulted by PF cadres and ridiculed but look just from the other day I warned that this is a wrong decision we recorded 85 cases. Today (Sunday) we have recorded 15 cases you can see that the numbers are going up and we have more numbers reported on a daily basis! If the President had proper advisers, they could have advised him that this is the wrong time to do what he did. But I am vindicated, I speak as I see things, I am not a bootlicker. I don’t speak in order to get recognition from the President or the government; I speak for the poor and the down in society and to avoid a calamity.”
But in an interview, Dr Chilufya insisted that government closed the Nakonde border the moment evidence demanded so.
Dr Chilufya said this when he was asked to comment on remarks that it was too late to close down the border at his daily briefing, Sunday.
“Like I said in my preamble, His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has been overseeing a multi sectorial approach to COVID-19. That is informed by the daily evolution of the epidemic, the data and the evidence that is produced. Therefore, the plan is scalable; science informs the President decision. Therefore, the epidemic can rapidly evolve; the epidemic remember is driven by a virus with a very high propensity to just spread in a very unpredictable manner. All these measures, the epidemiology around it will inform the decisions that President Lungu makes on a daily basis as he watchfully monitors the epidemic. We have no business hiding figures because hiding figures does not add value to the control,” said Dr Chilufya.
“There is nothing like we have taken long because it is informed by the daily evolution of the epidemic and the evidence that is on the table. This is a delicate balance between allowing the economy to run and averting a public health crisis. So we recognize that border as the major entry and exit point of major economic activities, therefore, we will be very cautious in dealing with cross border partners. So, the decision is informed by data I am sure it was the first time we heard those figures yesterday so the decision is timely.”