HEALTH Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says most people who are infected with COVID-19 are linked to crowd activities such as funerals.

And Dr Chilufya says Zambia has recorded 154 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Dr Chilufya says the 15 members of parliament and 11 National Assembly staff have also tested positive to COVID-19 .

Speaking during the daily COVID-19 briefing, Friday, Dr Chilufya said the ministry would discourage attendance of funerals.

He said public health officers would be strict in supervising disposal of bodies for people who had succumbed to COVID-19.

“We have noted as we do our surveillance for mortality, a very clear pattern: those who are unwell are linked to some crowd activities. We have noted a very clear link between those who are getting ill and funerals attended in the recent past. Going forward, our public health officers will be very strict in supervising disposal of bodies of people who die from Covid in order to protect relatives and mourners. We will discourage attendance of funerals. You attend a funeral and you crowd up, you put yourself at risk and you also put others at risk,” Dr Chilufya said.

“We applaud those who have come out and said ‘we appreciate your solidarity, we appreciate that you commiserate with us but there will be no funeral gatherings.’ That is the way to go in an epidemic otherwise we will continue to fuel this epidemic. We will be affecting hundreds and hundreds through funerals. It is not time to carry on business as usual. We cannot carry on doing funerals the way we do them in the past. We cannot carry on partying that we partied in the past. There are stipulated public health measures to protect you as participate in congregate set ups. Let us take personal responsibility to avoid COVID-19.”

And Dr Chilufya said none of the MPs were critically ill.

“We did make an announcement that in showing leadership and political will at the apex of the political leadership at Parliament, an exercise was carried out where members of parliament were tested for COVID-19 including members of staff. Results have been availed and 15 MPs have tested positive to COVID-19. All these MPs have been contacted and are being isolated in various facilities and those who require further therapy are being transferred to Covid centers. None of them is critically ill as we speak and we are managing them in various facilities…There were 11 members of staff that were affected in this exercise of two days ago. This number we are talking about the 11 members of staff and 15 MPs are out of the special exercise. And they are not part of the 154 that we did announce,” he said.

Dr Chilufya said Zambia had recorded 154 new cases in the last 24 hours.

“In the last 24 hours, we have recorded 154 new cases of COVID-19 out of 835 tests done. This brings our cumulative number of cases to 3,856. The new cases are characterized as follows: 114 from community screening in Lusaka, Kabwe, Kitwe and Ndola. 70 are from Lusaka, 29, Kabwe, 12, Kitwe, and Ndola three. And screening in our various health facilities we picked up two in Chingola, 16 in Lusaka and nine in Kitwe. Then those who are picked up from contact tracing in Lusaka were 11, two health workers in Kitwe and Ndola,” Dr Chilufya said.

He said two people had succumbed to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

“On a sad note, we lost one patient who was on a ventilator in the Covid center at Levy Mwanawasa. He had a comorbidity with hypertension and he succumbed in the early hours of today. We also had one community death and therefore this brings the total number of deaths to 136. So far, 33 are attributable to Covid and 97 are Covid associated deaths. We have discharged 253 patients amongst the patients we are nursing at various facilities and in homes bringing the total discharges to 1,941. We continue to see very ill patients in our Covid facilities. And as we speak, we have 16 patients on oxygen at Levy and two are critically ill while the rest are stable,” said Dr Chilufya.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has donated six ventilators towards the fight against COVID-19.