ZAMBIA National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) says the major challenge which the institute is facing is where to get COVID-19 supplies from because every country is looking for them.

And the Institute says Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya will relaunch a reviewed strategic plan which will make non adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures punishable by law.

Speaking when he appeared on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview, ZNPHI Country director Professor Victor Mukonka said there was a challenge of supplies.

“In terms of the diagnostic side, we have had major challenges. I must confess it is not only us but globally. The issue we have is where to get the supplies of the commodities because every country, they are looking for them. So there is high demand globally and because of that, we have to be very careful of what we have, what is the best way we can utilize. The ideal situation would have been to test everyone and know the status but in the reality, that is very difficult. So what we are advising people basically is that if you have been exposed, isolate yourself for at least 14 days. Should you have any symptoms, get in touch with us very quickly. The problem is that we don’t have the capacity, challenges of supplies,” Prof Mukonka said.

And Prof Mukonka said non-compliance of COVID-19 regulations would be punishable.

“We have reviewed in terms of our key interventions in the recent past and in the coming week, our honorable Minister of Health will be relaunching our reviewed strategic plan to move in very aggressive, equal force to the way the numbers are coming in terms of the pandemic. In the new strategy, our focus now is at a community level, public engagement. To ensure that they are part of the response and they do their part. So basically, what we want to do is to first make the public aware of the magnitude of the problem in the country and the severity of it. But more importantly, the key actions each individual needs to do to stop the transmission. And we will also put the issue of non-compliance will become quite aggressive now. Both with the health inspectors, we will work closely with the local authorities and Home Affairs to ensure there is compliance. Meaning if you have a shop and you allow people without, a mask, we will not only charge those people but we will also take you accountable for allowing it. If you are in a market, you don’t sell to a person without a mask because that person is causing danger to you. So we want to strengthen on the issue of compliance. That’s the only way we can protect the nation. If we don’t act and act now, we will end in a catastrophic situation,” he said.

Prof Mukonka said the Institute planned to use politicians to help fight the pandemic.

“This is why we have to use whatever platform available to us. Number one, we need to use our political leaders, Parliament adjourned and we are hoping that MPs are in their constituencies helping sensitizing the public. Secondly, we have said let’s work with traditional leaders. They have a lot of influence at community level. We have said let’s work with our religious leaders every Sunday if one is preaching, give about 5-10 minutes to ensure compliance is done in church. Because once they see that, they will take it home. The media, you have been instrumental to change the behaviour. The more you run these programs, it’s making a difference. We have had some of our colleagues who have been exposed and recovered who can give testimonies. So we need to use all the various avenues available to us to bring the change,” Prof Mukonka said.

He appealed to Zambians to comply with the COVID-19 regulations.

“The number of calls we are receiving have totally doubled. In fact, they have gone four times than in the beginning. People have become conscious. If you go to private hospitals, you see a lot of higher class moving in. Even our call centres have overrun. We are even planning to expand it. Which is a good sign. But compliance is our weak point now. We have tried our level best to manage our brothers and sisters so that they don’t die. What we are seeing is something unusual. We have never seen in a day 21 people brought-in-dead. Zambians to take action is what I am asking for. If they are afraid and not doing anything, they will die. What is important is for them to take a brave stance. COVID is a clever virus, it is playing around with us. And also we need equal force to sort it out,” said Prof Mukonka.