MINISTER of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya has announced that the country has recorded 182 new COVID-19 cases out of 651 tests, with three deaths in the last 24 hours.

And Dr Chilufya has warned citizens to be weary of unscrupulous individuals who are doing “rapid” COVID-19 tests and giving false results.

At the daily COVID-19 briefing, Sunday, Dr Chilufya said of the three deaths recorded, two were senior health professionals who worked in the mental health department.

“Today, we mourn two of our very senior colleagues in the health profession. These are not frontline responders in the COVID-19 outbreak but have been working in the health sector for more than 30 years. These have been running the mental health department and today as a sector, we bid farewell to Mr John Mayeya, our mental health specialist and Dr Anthony Zimba who was also part of the mental health department and was managing epilepsy,” Dr Chilufya said.

“In the last 24 hours, we recorded 182 new cases of COVID-19 and this is out of 651 tests conducted in the last 24 hours. We lost three patients in the COVID-19 facility and we continue to see very ill patients. Currently, we have 79 patients in our admission and out of these, 26 remain on oxygen and two are critically ill in the intensive care unit. We continue to appeal to the public to present early to health facilities when they are sick. We appeal for early presentation because the outcomes are different. The government will continue to invest in all the clusters of the response, surveillance at points of entry, surveillance in the communities, surveillance in our health facilities will continue to be improved. Our testing profile will be enhanced and we will continue to invest in platforms that will improve our ability to test.”

And according to information released by the Ministry of Health later, there were also 29 brought in dead bodies, 28 in Lusaka and one in Solwezi.

And Dr Chilufya urged citizens to ensure that they go for tests in designated government and private laboratories to avoid being duped with false negative COVID-19 results.

“We have noted the emergence of some facilities that are purporting to be doing Covid tests and issuing false negative results. False negative covid tests will not prevent you from Covid. We have designated centres where we test for COVID-19 and these centres are well known. The Covid facility at levy, the Covid centre at UTH and a number of sites that will be running, we further do community screening and our people are well known. Avoid the rapid tests that are being peddled. There is room for antibody tests within our research and within our practice but that is within our technical realms. But avoid being duped by unscrupulous individuals who are peddling covid antibody tests and releasing them quickly because those false negative tests are going to give you a false negative assurance and you still get ill. Not knowing your status cannot change your status, getting a false negative will also give you a false sense of assurance. Beware, get your covid tests from designated sites,” he warned.

The Minister said currently, there was no blood group that was known to be immune to COVID-19.

“No blood group is known to be protected from COVID-19, yes there has been data showing that blood group O could have some protective effect, this has not been confirmed and so the position today is there is no proven blood group that confers protection from COVID-19 so there is nothing like nili namagazi yokosa, yolimba (I have strong blood), no. Nothing like that,” said Dr Chilufya.

Meanwhile, director infectious diseases Prof Lloyd Mulenga said COVID-19 patients with mild and severe illness could only get a maximum of 6 weeks and three months protection from re-infection respectively, after which they were prone to reinfection.

“If someone has had covid, again diagnosed by the PCR, they can be re-infected. The window of protection is very narrow, it ranges 6 weeks, for those who have had mild disease for 6 to eight weeks. Then for those who have had severe disease, it may go up to three months. So someone can be re-infected. So we are encouraging those that were infected, for them to just go out there and say now they have the protection and they cannot be re-infected, they can be re-infected after a certain period. It’s very key for those that are being discharged to know that they can be re-infected and again emphasise the major protective mechanisms, masking up, physical distancing and also hygiene, they are very key even to the survivors of COVID-19,” said Prof Mulenga.

Prof Mulenga also said a sputum COVID-19 test would soon be introduced for patents who were able to cough as an addition to the extraction of specimen from the nose and mouth.

He said blood tests are not reliable in detecting the virus and that they were only used for research purposes to determine the body’s reaction to the virus once exposed.

Speaking at the same briefing, Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo said as the provincial administration, they would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that transmission was prevented.

“I was treated through ICU, I was in ICU for one and half days and I was discharged from ICU to the ward and I was at the hospital for seven days and the treatment which I received from the health workers, it was amazing. Those front liners they are more than ushers at church because of the way they treat the patients who visit levy Mwanawasa facility and I was discharged after seven days. My experience at levy Mwanawasa, COVID-19 is real, people are dying. At the time I was in ICU, the patient who was next to me died the following morning and I want to urge the people out there that COVID-19is not a disease which we can play with, tebulwele bwaku chenselako ameno iyo (this is not a disease to smile at, no), COVID-19 bubwele ubwingakwipaya (it’s a disease that can kill you) within the shortest period of time,” warned Lusambo.

“Definitely, as I go for work tomorrow (Monday), the business on the table will be how do we protect the people of Lusaka from COVID-19 with a multi sectoral team and I can assure you that as a province, we are not going to leave any stone unturned because it’s cheaper to prevent and it’s very expensive to treat COVID-19 patients, so we want to prevent the people from infection.”