PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says youths should take advantage of opportunities which government is providing instead of protesting in the bush and taking pride in how many views their protests got on social media.

And President Lungu says the cavalier attitude by some businessmen and women who have opened their bars and nightclubs will not be tolerated, adding that their businesses will only be re-opened when whether conditions are favourable.

Speaking when addressing the nation, Thursday, President Lungu said he approved a K30 million youth empowerment scheme targeting artistes countrywide to be launched in Lusaka soon.

The Head of State also announced that the government had set aside US$29 million for the implementation of the aquaculture seed fund under the Zambia aquaculture enterprise development project.

“I direct the Minister of Youth, and Sport to find opportunities as enshrined in the Seventh National Development Plan for the youth to venture into skills training and other entrepreneurship ventures. The youth should take advantage of the opportunities available and those that my government has facilitated. I expect the Ministry of Youth and Sport to provide leadership in a multisectoral manner as they guide the youth to become a positive demographic dividend in our economy amidst COVID-19. As a way of starting this work that we must all be engaged into, I have since approved a K30 million youth empowerment scheme targeting artistes countrywide to be launched in Lusaka soon. The National Arts Council under the Ministry of Tourism and Arts will implement this program. I direct the Ministry of Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, and the Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) to facilitate linkage for the youth to benefit from the development of industrial yards through the skills development and entrepreneurship project supported by the African Development Bank (ADB). Furthermore, government is facilitating youth access to other empowerment programmes under the CEEC such as the cassava value chain programme and the aquaculture value chain initiative,” President Lungu said.

“My government has set aside US$29 million for the implementation of the aquaculture seed fund under the Zambia aquaculture enterprise development project. The project is aimed at enhancing fish production and is earmarked to benefit more than 3,000 entrepreneurs, including youth and women. Therefore, I implore the Zambian youth to take keen interest in participating and profiting from different empowerment initiatives my government is putting in place, instead of protesting in the bush and taking pride in how many views of their protests were seen on social media. The Zambian youth I long to see is one that is taking the initiative like that young man of Chunga dumpsite waste management association who transformed trash into cash and now has built a house, employs other youth, and is organising other youth into a cooperative. Or Chilekwa Mwamba who has formed a cooperative with his young friends and today the organisation has spread across the country.”

President Lungu announced that eight cases of COVID-19 had been recorded out of 569 tests conducted.

“It is exactly 97 days today since Zambia recorded the first case of COVID-19. Life as we knew it, completely changed and along with it, the livelihoods of millions of Zambians were adversely affected. My government remains alive to the challenges facing Zambians everyday as they strive to make a living amidst these difficult times. In the last 24 hours, eight cases were recorded to be positive out of the 569 tested. Cumulatively, 1,497 persons have been infected with COVID-19 and sadly, 18 have lost their lives since the outbreak of coronavirus in Zambia. Of note, we have had 1,223 cumulative recoveries from COVID-19, which translates to 82%, out of 52,195 total tests conducted so far. In addition, all patients under treatment are in stable condition. I wish to applaud our dedicated gallant health professionals and all the frontline personnel for the spirited fight they put up against COVID-19,” President Lungu said.

He expressed sadness that some people thought COVID-19 was a hoax.

“When I take time to read what some people write, especially on social media and listen to what they say on phone-in radio and television programmes, I get the sense that for some people, Covid-19 is a hoax and that it only exists in the developed world. I have heard some people, say “why have we not re-opened everything and gone back to normal, this disease is not killing Africans.” Make no mistake about it, COVID-19 is real and it remains a deadly disease. However, the measures that I announced during my first address on 25th march, 2020 are yielding positive results in stemming the further spread of COVID-19,” he said

“To say it could have been worse is an understatement. We do not intend to shower ourselves with praises over the containment of COVID-19, but when we see what has happened in many other countries, we can only thank god and pray that he continues to protect us from the deadly pandemic. In the same vein, we pray to God to grant world scientists intellect and wisdom to find the vaccine and the cure. For those infected, with the virus, we pray for God’s healing mercies and wish them quick recovery and for those, who have lost loved ones, we pray for their strength and courage. May the souls of the departed rest in eternal peace.”

And President Lungu emphasized that bars and nightclubs remained closed until there were favorable weather conditions.

“It is important not to relax and go back to our old ways of doing things as that will fuel the rapid spread of the virus. Sadly though, it has come to my attention that some bar and nightclub business owners have resumed operations despite my government’s directive to remain closed. This cavalier attitude by some of these business men and women should not be condoned. It is important to adhere to the measures that government has put in place because we need to preserve the precious lives of our people as we endeavor to gradually restore our economy,” President Lungu said.

“My appeal to you my fellow Zambians is to calmly and patiently observe how we go through the cold season. All the businesses including bars and nightclubs, schools, colleges and universities will eventually reopen and resume operations once we go through this period. The World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), through the Ministry of Health, have warned about a spike during this cold season if we relax the measures that we have put in place. In view of this, bars and night clubs will remain closed until the weather conditions are favorable and special and specific guidelines for this sub-sector are devised and put in place.”

President Lungu, however, re-opened all the international airports.

“In the tourism sector as I stated in the last address, we also have to get back to work. I, therefore, announce the reopening of all international airports which were closed, immediately. Let me direct the minister of communication and transport, the minister of finance, the minister of home affairs and the minister of tourism to work together in ensuring stringent health guidelines such as screening; testing passengers with symptoms; masking; social distancing; frequent washing of hands, and follow-up on passengers who test positive and sending them into quarantine until they test negative. The reopening of all international airports will trigger the recovery of the tourism sector not only in Livingstone but the country at large,” President Lungu said.

Meanwhile, President Lungu said the COVID-19 bond would be used to pay off suppliers of goods and services.

“Government is so concerned about domestic debt owed to suppliers of goods and services. That is why part of the money from this bond will be used to pay off suppliers of goods and services, including the local contractors. This is a deliberate effort by my government aimed at ploughing back money in our local economy and enhancing economic activity than letting our money go out of the country. Further, the money realised from the bond will be utilised to support the small and medium enterprises that will not be able to access the k10 billion medium term refinancing facility through commercial banks which is managed by the bank of Zambia. With these measures, I expect the economy to reignite to a positive growth trajectory,” President Lungu said.

He said consultations of resumption of remaining classes and colleges were underway.

“As government, we have seen that the re-opening of examination classes is already giving us vital information which we should take into account as we are considering resumption of the remaining classes as well as colleges and universities. Consultations with key stakeholders are currently underway on the reopening of the remaining classes, colleges and universities bearing in mind the cold season as guided by the WHO, CDC through the Ministry of Health. The nation will be informed the next course of action once the consultations are concluded,” said President Lungu.