HEALTH Minister Dr Chilatu Chilufya yesterday failed to give substantial reasons to why PF officials, including himself, have been flouting COVID-19 guidelines, opting instead to mock the UPND for being “undemocratic”.
And Dr Chilufya says the number of COVID-19 deaths has risen to 108, with 190 new cases as of July 17, 2020.
Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya says government will soon resume daily COVID-19 updates.
Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini had ordered Dr Chilufya to give a ministerial statement on why PF members were flouting COVID-19 guidelines after Monze central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu raised a point of order on the matter.
But in his ministerial statement, Dr Chilufya only gave a COVID-19 update.
Unsatisfied with the statement, Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo asked a follow up question to why the PF had been seen campaigning in the midst of COVID-19 and why the Minister appeared before the courts of law with cadres who were not observing social distancing in a follow up question.
In his response, however, Dr Chilufya said Nkombo should tone down on his bitterness and that government was not in any way characterizing gatherings on political grounds.
This did not sit well with Nkombo who angrily shouted that “what bitterness? Am I the one that arrested you?”.
Speaker Matibini had to call for order to quell the confusion which broke out following Dr Chilufya’s sarcastic response.
Nkombo then requested to raise a point of order but Speaker Matibini rejected the request, instead asking Dr Chilufya to watch his temper when responding to questions.
In his response, Dr Chilufya dodged the question yet again and said “let not COVID-19 be used as a reason for people to suddenly become democratic, the UPND has never held elections for many years”.
Dr Matibini was forced to intervene again, asking the minister to clarify claims of discrimination in the administration of the public health guidelines.
“Mr Speaker, as Minister of Health, I am concerned about the health of all individuals including the honourable member of parliament, [but] bitterness, he needs to tone down. Let COVID-19 not be used as a reason for people to suddenly become democratic, the UPND has never held elections for many years. Mr Speaker, we don’t want to characterize gatherings on political grounds, on racial grounds, on religious grounds. We are stating categorically here that every public gathering held must be in compliance to public health measures that are stipulated in the Public Health Act in statutory instruments in 21, 22 and 62 nothing else matters because we endeavor for health for everyone, everywhere,” Dr Chilufya said.
“Therefore, I call on all stakeholders, religious, traditional, political leaders to ensure that as they hold any gatherings of any nature, they adhere to the measures that have been stipulated in the Public Health Act. This will help us stem community spread of COVID-19.”
He said government was not discriminatory in the application of the public health act.
“Mr Speaker, I would like to reiterate that public health is apolitical and we need not to characterize any gatherings based on political affiliations because any gatherings. religious, political, would be a recipe for transmission of COVID-19, if public measures are not adhered to. So I will shy away from characterizing gatherings. Discrimination doesn’t arise, in my statement, I have been saying let us all adhere to public health and social measures. I don’t want to talk about for instance the hoards of UPND cadres who gathered in a non adherence manner to social measures when the President visited Monze, I didn’t mention this Mr Speaker,” he said.
“In unity of purpose and in solidarity, let us ensure we fight COVID-19 by appearing as a united force of MPs and to ensure that any gathering that is held in compliance to public health measures that are being put in place. This government will not be discriminatory in application of the law, this is the reason why the law enforcement agencies will react whether there is a PF member or a UPND member or indeed a FDD member. Mr Speaker, yesterday at the courts of law, compliance to public health matters was enforced by this same government through law enforcement agencies.”
And Dr Chilufya said government had noted a reduction by many citizens in adhering to public health guidelines and social measures.
Dr Chilufya said the country had recorded 190 COVID-19 positive cases with the number of deaths rising to 108.
He said 22 patients required oxygen therapy and specialist therapy.
“As we speak today, 17th July, 2020 Zambia did record 190 new cases of COVID-19 and this was out of 848 cases (tests). Mr Speaker, these cases have been picked through routine community screening, health care facility based screening, contacts to those who are already positive, a few health workers and those who have been brought in already dead. Mr Speaker, the cumulative number of COVID cases has gone up 2,620 and this is out of 67,096 tests done since the outbreak of COVID-19. The number of recoveries on a positive note has been 1,434,” Dr Chilufya said.
“We have observed in the last two weeks an increase in COVID-19 cases in which the number of people presenting with severe illness has gone up. There is an exponential rise of persons dying in communities. As at yesterday, the number of cases we recorded in our COVID centers requiring oxygen therapy was 22 and these required specialist therapy. Mr Speaker, equally, the number of BIDs or brought in dead cases has also gone up. Mr Speaker, this should raise concern. We should shy away from politicizing COVID-19 as it is a grave public health threat. The numbers are increasing exponentially in terms of mortality and modality.”
He said out of the 108 COVID-19 deaths, 22 were classified as COVID deaths, 63 were classified as COVID-19 associated deaths while 23 were pending classification.
“Mr Speaker, on a sad note I would like to report a total number of 108 deaths that are linked with COVID-19. With the revision of the definition of a COVID-19 death by the World Health Organization, Mr Speaker, Zambia has revised its figures as follows: out of 108 deaths, 84 died within the community and these were brought in dead. 85 of the 108 deaths have been classified already and 22 are classified as COVID deaths. Mr Speaker, 63 are classified as COVID associated deaths, the remaining 23 are pending classification based on autopsy and mortality surveillance that we are conducting in the communities. For avoidance of doubt, COVID deaths are those associated with classical symptoms of COVID and no underline pathology. COVID associated deaths are those that are to do with underlying comorbidities and then they are tested positive for COVID too,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya said the Ministry of Health would resume with its daily COVID-19 updates.
“…we are going to resume engagement with the community on a daily basis, updating them on the state of the epidemic,” said Dr Chilufya.
Mukosha Funga (Ms)
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