THE Ministry of Health has announced that the country has recorded 226 new COVID-19 cases out of 732 tests done in the last 24 hours with five Brought in Dead (BID) cases recorded in Ndola.

And the Ministry says there is no discrimination in the treatment of COVID-19 patients because even if some wards are labelled “VIP”, people are treated equally and by the same health workers.

Meanwhile, the Ministry has observed that currently, Zambia is recording a 20 per cent positivity rate in the number of COVID-19 cases, with a worrying trend of sicker patients being seen in health facilities.

Speaking during the daily COVID-19 briefing, Wednesday, Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya said Ndola and Solwezi had become hotspots for the pandemic as the number of cases had doubled in the last few days.

“Locally, we have observed that covid has evolved into a major outbreak and a major cause of sickness and death. This is happening at every part of the country and we see increased sickness and deaths in our communities with widening geographic spread across the country. Specifically, we have noted a spike on the Copperbelt, particularly in Ndola and in North Western Province particularly in Solwezi. These two districts have recorded double figures in the last few days. There is therefore a call for all of us to strengthen measures and re-enforce our strategies in response to the outbreak. We cannot afford to let down our guard and fail to respond appropriately to the prevailing situation,” he said.

“The country, in the last 24 hours, we did 732 tests and we recorded 226 new cases of COVID-19, this brings the number of cases to 8,501 and when we disaggregate the cases, we see 74 that were picked through hospital screening in Lusaka 35, Ndola 19; Solwezi 18; while Kabwe and Kafue recorded one each. We also did identify through routine screening; 40 in Ndola again; Lusaka 22; Kitwe five and Kabwe one. We had 60 cases which were known contacts and these are disaggregated as follows; 47 from Lusaka; six from Choma; three from Ndola while Kazungula had one, Mazabuka one, Monze one and Rufunsa one. Kazungula; 11 truck drivers were identified. We unfortunately recorded five of brought in dead cases in Ndola that were detected through mortuary screening. We now have 79 patients admitted to Levy Mwanawasa isolation facility with 32 on oxygen and three are still admitted to ICU, critically ill. We have discharged 229 persons in the last 24 hours, in various parts of the country and that brings our cumulative number of discharges to 7,233 that is out of the 8,501 cases that we have depicted.”

Dr Chilufya said the country would, in the next three to four weeks, double its testing capacity so that the extent of the disease in Zambia is determined.

And Dr Chilufya noted that despite wards being labelled differently in hospitals, patients in the isolation facilities were being treated equally.

“First of all, all our patients are treated the same. The principle in that national health strategic plan is to reduce inequalities and that’s a fundamental principal. Inequalities must be reduced and in public health, we treat all patients the same. There are those that may be labelled as such but the treatment is the same. The health workers looking at them are the same and there are some wards that are labelled for identification and for certain purposes in a normal set up. However, as we manage COVID-19, I want to emphasise one principal in medicine, the health workers treating patients, whether you want to classify them as VIPs or you want to classify them as ordinary are the same health workers. The drugs we use are the same and the treatment is the same. So we are not going to discriminate and this is the reason why I emphasised in my last update that the numbers that you will be scrolling on various media platforms will not discriminate or won’t identify based on what these normal labelling in a ward situation and we will treat all the numbers as the same and people will be able to access information on their patients from those numbers,” said Dr Chilufya.

Meanwhile, ministry permanent secretary Dr Kennedy Malama said at the moment, two out of 10 people tested are being found COVID-19 positive.

“Indeed, as a country, we have reached a stage which we feared most, we feared the stage where the number of sicker people who will be presenting to the health facilities will emerge and this is where we are. When we do the testing on a daily basis, we are finding that two out of 10 people are positive. On average, 20 per cent of the sample when we do the daily testing are positive, this is worrisome. And when we look at the trend where we are coming from, it’s like a worsening trend. So the key message for COVID-19 is not like any other condition, what we’ve gathered as Zambia is that COVID-19 can mimic any condition. It can mimic malaria, it can mimic pneumonia and indeed any other condition. The key message to our people, call for help, immediately you suspect you are not feeling well, call for help but what is even more important is to prevent COVID-19 from attacking us,” he said.

“Honourable minister, we are now getting feedback from members of the public that we are repeating the same messages. The point is, things which are high impact or very good should be repeated. For instance, masking now, we should frown upon those who are not masking and we are calling upon Zambians, if you are in a congregate setting, if you are in a public place and you see someone who is not masking up, that one is a danger to society and a danger to you. We need to encourage each other.”

He further warned citizens against self-prescribing oxygen as it should only be administered by trained health care providers.

“We have started receiving calls from people’s homes that they are not breathing well, not long ago we received a call from a family where they were asking ‘where can I buy oxygen, my husband requires oxygen’, that’s what we are discouraging, do not self-prescribe oxygen to your family members just because they are not breathing well. Oxygen should only be prescribed by the health practitioner, if a family member is not feeling well, call for help immediately or rush them to the relevant health facility for help. We are seeing some of our people with joint pains, others just getting tired from nowhere, you need to suspect this may be covid. We are also seeing an increase in the increased blood sugar in people’s bodies like they have diabetes. We never used to see this but during this covid outbreak, some of our people are presenting with Sugar disease or diabetes mellitus; that is an indication. We have also shared that other people are losing a sense of smell and taste, suspect covid and take appropriate measures,” said Dr Malama.