CHIEF Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says government is concerned with the increased number of cyber crimes amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

And Siliya says the fight against COVID-19 should not be taken as a government responsibility, but as a personal responsibility.

Speaking during a media briefing in Lusaka, Thursday, Siliya said government had observed an increase in cyber crimes during the COVID-19 outbreak because unprecedented numbers of citizens were working from home.

“There is something that is happening that is concerning government a lot and that is cyber crime. We have seen an increase in cyber crime and some of our experts are saying it is that a lot of people are staying at home and are on the phone; banks are complaining, citizens are complaining, including high profile citizens because of cyber crime,” Siliya said.

“The message from government is very clear: cyber crime is detrimental to our economy and to our social fabric. The ills of cyber crime, which is money fraud, which is abuse of children, which is abuse of women, which is just defrauding citizens. I think the police have been very clear on behalf of government that they are going to be following up all these crimes to ensure that we bring the perpetrators to book.”

She warned that government would deal with perpetrators of cyber crime to deter would-be offenders.

“The Internet, which we should enjoy positively, should not be used especially during this corona time, to be enjoyed negatively by encouraging crime. So, the message from government is that this is a good warning for those that are involved in cyber crime and government will definitely work very hard to make a number of these criminals examples to deter other people because even while we are at home and we are working from the laptop, from the Internet, it does no mean we should be abusing the Internet,” she said.

“During this time of Coronavirus, there are people who are working night and day to hack people’s accounts, to hack people’s Facebook accounts, to defraud people in terms of their cash by putting out fake empowerment programmes on the Internet. I think it is something that our citizens must be very aware of because it is on the increase and it is a very dangerous trend.”

And Siliya said the fight against COVID-19 should not be taken as a government responsibility, but as a personal one.

“This is not a responsibility of government only, in fact, the first responsibility is yourself. If you don’t take responsibility, you will lose your life and you will be responsible for that. Government wants to be as blunt as possible today that this is your responsibility. Surviving Corona is your responsibility because you have to wear your masks, you have to sanitise your hands, Corona is not going away anytime soon, we don’t want to be part of this statistic; we want to ensure that at the end of Corona, you would have survived. So, the message from government is that, it is your responsibility, take responsibility, wear a mask and if you see any person near you who doesn’t want to wear a mask just know that they are putting you at risk and that you could die because of Corona,” Siliya cautioned.

She reiterated that government was discouraging weddings and chilanga mulilos as they remained high risk events where people could easily contract COVID-19.

“There are a lot of people who are spending time at home and rightly so because people are encouraged to stay at home. They don’t have to leave their home when they don’t want to. Now, we have seen so many weddings taking place, funerals, chilanga mulilos. But I think we should heed the call of the WHO that every time you make a decision to leave your home; every time you make a decision to go to wedding; every time you make a decision to go to a chilanga mulilo, to places where you are not compelled to be, it is different from work. I think we should always know that we are making a life and death decision and that government is saying that, take responsibility on these life and death decisions that you want to make,” she advised.

“We are discouraging people from going to funerals, weddings, going to Chilaga mulilos, going to birthday parties. We are trying to encourage people to stay at home and now with Corona in other places, think twice before you decide to go to another town because Corona does not move, it’s people who move the virus. So, the message is very basic: let us remember that this disease kills.”

When asked if government was considering providing protective equipment to journalists to help them carry out their duties, Siliya insisted that protection against COVID-19 remained a personal responsibility.

“I think PPEs are important to all of us and the way government has been able to provide PPEs to Zambians in general, I think government has done that. We also encourage various organisations to support their employees, but at the end of day, it is also a personal responsibility, and government has said that protecting yourself, especially the basic mask, is not just surgical masks, it is anything you can use to cover yourself. For me, it is good that we can protect ourselves, basically, in terms of masks from any piece of cloth at this point in time and I encourage all media organisations where they are able to, they should be able to support their staff. But I think each one of us as, a citizen, must be able to take responsibility and ensure that we have our mouths and our nose covered,” replied Siliya.

“I know how expensives masks are, sometimes I don’t have surgical masks, I have to wear cloth masks because we have all been assured that we can wear cloth masks and because it is cheaper and they are reusable. So, I think that we all have to learn to use our bandanas, our scarfs and whatever else we can, especially media personnel because you are quite exposed and it will be a shame to hear that one of you has lost their lives from COVID.”