Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says the country has recorded 120 COVID-19 deaths as at July 18, 2020.

And Dr Chilufya says the country has recorded 170 new COVID-19 cases out of 1,352 tests done.

Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya said Independent Lukashya member of parliament Mwenya Munkonge died of complications with high blood pressure and heart failure and not COVID-19.

Speaking at a briefing today, Dr Chilufya said the cumulative number of cases was now 2,980.

“In the last 24 hours, we have confirmed 170 COVID cases out of 1,352 tests done. This brings the cumulative number of cases to COVID to 2,980. The case profile is as follows: 35 are contacts to known cases; 61 were picked through the routine screening in our health facilities; 46 were picked through routine community screening, 17 were truck drivers, 11 were brought in dead. We have discharged 12 patients out of the many cases that we had in our hospitals. This brings the number of recoveries to 1,462,” Dr Chilufya said.

“Cumulatively, we have therefore recorded 120 deaths in which COVID-19 was isolated. 27 COVID deaths have been isolated out of the pack and 82 covid associated deaths. 11 community deaths have now been reclassified. Let us adhere to public health measures that are being stipulated. It is extremely important to note that any easing of measures is done cautiously is informed by data and can be reversed or even strengthened if the data shows otherwise.”

The Minister said 19 patients currently needed oxygen support.

“The patients who are presenting with COVID-19 in our hospitals are now severely ill as we speak today, we have 19 patients who are hooked to oxygen supplying gadgets. So 19 patients today are on oxygen and are rather ill. The cold weather compiled by the laxity to the compliance of the public health and social measures have been factors that have been fueling the epidemic. I would like to make an appeal to the public to ensure they adhere to public health and social measures and whenever they feel ill, they should seek medical help. This is important for us to stop the big number of people being brought in either critically ill or already dead. We further urge our private hospitals to work closely with our publicly health institutions to ensure that diagnosis is done quickly and people are linked to management of COVID-19,” he said.

Dr Chilufya said government was pondering how to strengthen the current public health measures in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Today as we speak, we report COVID-19 has taken a twist and there is a surge in the number of cases and deaths, we have also noted with concern the compliance to adhering to public health measures and social measures. Today I bear a message from His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu to all of us to wear masks, mandatory to all public places, public transport, markets, please only permit people that are putting on masks,” Dr Chilufya said.

“Statutory instruments number 21 and 22 and statutory instrument number 62 are all still in force, adjustments as I have alluded to earlier will be informed by various indicators in the pandemic. So when we see cases rising, deaths going up just know that the next move is strengthening the response, adjusting it to ensure we protect the public from further community spread and further risks to death. So we expect an adjustment to the response plan.”

And Dr Chilufya said Mukonge’s death was caused by high blood pressure and heart failure.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of our beloved member of parliament for Lukashya honourable Mwenya Mukonge who passed away today at 04:36 hours at Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka. He died due to complications of high blood pressure and heart failure. We would like to emphasize that the cause of death was because of complications of high blood pressure and heart failure and he was tested for COVID-19 on two occasions and both were negative, the latest being yesterday on the 16th. So the death of the honourable member of parliament is not due to COVID-19,” said Dr Chilufya.

And when asked when government would start paying allowances to the health frontline staff involved in the COVID-19 fight, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Dr Kennedy Malama said the ministry was yet to receive feedback on when allowances would be given to frontline workers.

“As you are aware in government, in the public sector, there are provisions for various allowances which are paid. So, the ones you are referring to operating or working as part of the COVID-19 response, there was an indication of possible incentives but as we have updated before, submissions were made and we are yet to receive feedback. So, all we can urge the health workers is to continue working hard in this COVID response, we know the conditions where we are. Issues of allowances at an appropriate time will be concluded,” said Dr Malama.