ZAMBIA has in the 24 hours recorded four COVID-19 deaths, of which two were brought in dead at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), while the other two were recorded at Midlands Hospital and Levy Mwanawasa isolation centre in Lusaka.

And Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Kennedy Malama says most of those who are succumbing to COVID-19 are over 50-years-old or have underlying conditions like HIV.

Speaking during the daily COVID-19 updates in Lusaka, Wednesday, Dr Malama announced that the country had recorded 247 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours out of the 970 tests conducted.

Dr Malama explained that the new cases and deaths recorded had raised the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases to 5,249, with 146 deaths.

He said 87 patients were currently admitted to isolation centers with 37 on oxygen and three more on ventilators.

“In the last 24 hours, Zambia has recorded a total of 247 cases of COVID-19 out of 970 tests conducted. The 247 cases include: 127 people who were identified through healthcare facility screening, in Lusaka 116, Kitwe nine and Ndola two. We also had 64 contacts to known positive cases, in Lusaka 62, Chilanga two. We had 46 individuals from routine community screening in Lusaka. Four health workers were screened in Lusaka and three individuals identified following community alerts within Lusaka. We had three Brought-In-Dead (BID)s to our mortuary at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH). We had one facility death and this occurred at Medland Medical Centre. The four deaths recorded in the last 24 hours include as alluded to; the two BIDs brought to UTH and the death which occurred at our private hospital here in Lusaka and also a patient whom we’ve been managing at Levy Mwanawasa COVID-19 isolation centre,” Dr Malama said.

“The cumulative number of deaths, therefore associated with COVID-19 now stands at 146. Following the reclassification of deaths in which the virus has been detected, it has been determined that 40 of these deaths are COVID-deaths or deaths due to COVID-19 while 96 are COVID-19 associated deaths. Eight deaths are yet to be classified. As we’ve always said, when a death occurs we have to do investigations; we have to check the records, talk to the family members and ensure that the diagnosis we put finally is what is on the ground. So definitely people should not be surprised that we do embark on classification of these deaths when they occur. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in our country stands at 5,249 including 146 deaths and 3,285 recoveries.”

And Dr Malama revealed that most of the people succumbing to COVID-19 were those above the age of 50.

“The majority of the cases, particularly those we’ve admitted in our facilities, you’d see that the majority are 50 years of age and above. And when it comes to those who are passing on, again it’s the older ones by and large because they are the most affected. But also as a country, not relying on the global evidence, we’ve seen that people living with underlying conditions are the majority of those we’ve lost. When we say we’ve lost 40 due to COVID-19 and the other number associated, those [lost] to COVID-19, you will find that they are quite a good number of them. Diabetes, which is Sugar Disease, as you may call it, high blood pressure, kidney disease… we have also seen association with HIV [among] those who are succumbing. So in summary, you will see that having an underlying cause or condition is a risk factor for someone who develops COVID-19 from succumbing to it. We’ve also seen that generally, males seem to have been more affected when broadly you look at those who were COVID-19 positive in our country,” Dr Malama said.

And Dr Malama described calls by some members of the public to have pictures of COVID-19 patients published as unethical.

“As a country at the moment, looking at all our COVID-19 treatment and isolation centres, we have a total of 99 of our brothers and sisters admitted there of which 37 are on oxygen. We also have three who are on ventilators. Let me re-emphasise, we continue getting calls that as government we should show the public pictures of our brothers and sisters who are admitted on COVID-19 treatment and centres, that is unethical. We would like to ensure that we give the privacy and confidentiality to our brothers and sisters who are admitted in our COVID-19 treatment and isolation centres,” Dr Malama said.

Dr Malama also asked members of the public to stop self-prescribing COVID-19 treatment without expert advice.

“Let me also take this opportunity to appeal to the Zambian people; we’ve received information of some people who are promoting the use of some of the drugs which should only be prescribed by health practitioners to the members of the public, this is uncalled for. At a time like this when we are fighting COVID-19, we expect to move as a collective as a country and we wouldn’t want to see a situation where certain quarters is undoing what we are trying to do. Some of the drugs we are using in treating people with COVID-19 are quite strong drugs which should only be prescribed by those who are authorized. We have had reports of drugs like azithromycin, dexamethasone being presented by some people in the communities that people can self-prescribe, we are not going to condone that and we have directed the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) and other relevant wings to move in and ensure that we stamp out those practices,” said Dr Malama.

Dr Malama also encouraged members of the public to be wearing cloth face masks and leave surgical masks to those visiting hospitals and the health workers.