MINISTER of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya says Zambia has in the last 24 hours recorded 233 new COVID-19 cases and one death.

And Ministry of Health Director Infectious Disease Professor Loyd Mulenga has disclosed that 60 per cent of those who succumbed to COVID-19 were diabetic.

Meanwhile, Prof Mulenga says COVID-19 symptoms keep evolving as people are now presenting with diarrhoea, vomiting and eye infections.

Speaking the daily COVID-19 briefing, Monday, Dr Chilufya said one patient who was critically ill had died, bringing the total number of deaths to 171.

“Country men and women, in the last 24 hours we have recorded new incidences of COVID-19 and this is out of a total of 1,820 tests done. These cases have been identified through the routine screening that we do in our health care facilities and in our communities. But what is important to note is that Lusaka and the Copperbelt provinces continue to show a high number of cases and therefore, our people in Lusaka, in all the high density areas, in the public places, need to raise awareness, need to raise alertness in the way they manage themselves in public. We reiterate the need for us to adhere to the simple measures, the four Ws are critical; wear a mask, wash your hand, watch your distance and keep warm,” he said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, in our hospitals, we have 39 patients on oxygen, six are in the intensive care unit. These are critically ill and that’s one of the reasons we say let us see how we can work together to avoid progression of COVID-19. We lost one patient in the last 24 hours and this was a patient who was critically ill and it has been a co-morbidity to hypertension and other common chest infections. Therefore, our cumulative numbers for COVID-19 now stand at 6,580. Total of 171 deaths with 208 patients discharged in the last 24 hours, we have 4,701 recoveries.”

He emphasised the need for citizens to avoid gatherings to avoid a further spread of the disease.

“This is not time for attending funerals. Funerals should be managed events, should be for the selected close people who are invited. Funerals need to be seen as very high risk areas of transmission. Parties, chilanga mulilos, all these are events that are associated with the cases we are getting. It is not uncommon, country men and wome,n to have five, six members admitted to the facilities and what we just pick up is a party they had in a family, funerals they had a week prior,” said Dr Chilufya.

And speaking during the same briefing, Prof Mulenga said most people who had died from COVID-19 were diabetic.

He also said those without a history of diabetes were also presenting with high sugar levels once they had COVID-19.

“So the age range, most of the patients that we are seeing are those above 45 but increased deaths is above those who are above the age of 45 as well. We have those heart pumps in those patients who have diabetes, so diabetics, in fact, are the ones whom we have lost the majority of them, almost 60 percent have had diabetes but also we are seeing that someone may not have had diabetes before but when they have Covid, they present with increased sugar levels and a diabetic picture and controlling the sugar becomes very difficult and that also leads to increased deaths,” Prof Mulenga said.

“There is also hypertensives, honourable. We have had people with hypertension, then complicated HIV, those with HIV whose treatment is not optimal, they are not taking ARVs well, the outcomes also have been very bad. Then we have also other people with other co-morbidities like chronic lung infections that includes TB as well, those factors they lead to the severe forms of disease and also increased risk of death.”

Meanwhile, Prof Mulenga listed some of the symptoms of COVID-19, which he said kept evolving.

“What we are seeing is that the symptoms which we were reporting earlier on has been changing over time. We were emphasising that the pandemic had a flu like symptoms, sneezing, coughing having fevers and also headache. Then we went again to start seeing more persons presenting with diarrhoea, vomiting, then also we started seeing some individuals who have also conjunctivitis, they have infection of the eyes, where the eyes are red. Also, many do report of fatigue and fatigue progresses over time even when someone has recovered from COVID-19, the fatigue will still be there. Now when it comes to severity, we usually see patients who come in with shortness of breath, they have chest pains as well. Some even just complain of chest tightness,” said Prof Mulenga.

“Now, those are worrying signs because it would mean that the lungs are getting affected and someone may have developed pneumonia which is an infection of the lungs. Over the last two to three weeks or so, we’ve been seeing excessive sweating and when we see someone with excessive sweating, it shows that they are reaching almost the peak of the severity of their infection and it’s a sign for us to even make certain interventions in terms of the drugs that we need to institute as well. So not just the lungs, we have also the people who just collapse suddenly because this virus has a tendency of forming clots in various parts of the body, the blood vessels. So you may have someone just complain of sudden shortness of breath and we lose that patient within a short period of time. Others present with a stroke, others present with clots as well in the lungs. So we are looking at a broader picture and once we have those severe symptoms or signs we need to have those put in intensive care.”

He said there was need for more medicines and oxygen.

“So the outcomes have been favourable, we could have lost a number of people but also thanks to the support of government who are instituting certain measures and certain drugs being available. Of course we need more drugs, those who are a game changer like steroids as well, those which can also reduce the clotting as well. Those have been affecting the good outcomes. And having oxygen. As you noted as well, we have a lot of people in need of oxygen having reached a peak of about 48 on oxygen and also now in ICU we are seeing more severe cases. And of course these cases are across all races, we are seeing black Zambians, we are seeing white Zambians, some Asians. So it’s not affecting just one specific race. The severities are across the board,” said Prof Mulenga.

“The outcomes depend on how severe someone is. In fact when you look at the number of deaths that we’ve had, we have tried to limit the mortality in the facilities but fellow Zambians, the media, it’s very difficult once you have a severe infection especially when the lungs are affected. Over the last one week, we’ve been seeing deaths almost on a daily basis in the facilities. We have of course dedicated health care workers and for us to prevent in the exhaustion and also for us to prevent the increased mortality, we need to start first in the first preventive measures of people avoiding getting sick or else they will go to the severe form of the disease themselves.”