HEALTH Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya says two facility deaths and 137 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the last 24 hours.

And Ministry of Health Director of Infectious Diseases Professor Lloyd Mulenga says there is an increase in the number of young people succumbing to COVID-19.

Speaking during the daily COVID-19 updates, Tuesday, Dr Chilufya said 32 people were on oxygen support as at yesterday.

“In the last 24 hours, Zambia has recorded 137 new cases of COVID out 651 tests done. Now this brings the number of cases that we have recorded in the country to 11,345. The 137 cases are mainly from Lusaka and mainly from routine hospital screening and individuals identified through surveillance. Two health care workers were also reported to be COVID-19 positive. Currently, we have 60 patients admitted to Levy Mwanawasa Hospital with 32 on oxygen,” Dr Chilufya said.

“Two are critical under Intensive Care Unit and one is on the ventilator. Outside Lusaka, we have 31 patients admitted to our isolation facilities and 15 are on oxygen. Two facility deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours at the Levy Mwanawasa Isolation facility involving a 62-year-old who was hypertensive and diabetic and a 63-year-old male who also had respiratory failure when they reported to the COVID center. 191 patients have been discharged from our health facilities bringing the total number of discharges to 10,399.”

He emphasized the need for members of the public to maintain social distancing while observing other prescribed guidelines to prevent further spread of Coronavirus.

“Maintaining physical distance is extremely important. What is the essence? Respiratory droplets that are released by this infected person will get to you if you are closer to the person who is infected and you will inhale those respiratory droplets. Therefore, you will reduce the chances of getting infected if you maintain a physical distance. So as we focus on infection prevention and control, physical distancing must be picked as one of the very high impact public health interventions. Frequent hand washing with soap and water is extremely important. It will kill the virus even before you touch your nose, mouth and eyes. Now, washing hands is not just getting into contact with water, it is a skill rule, there is a way you wash hands…We must ensure that we identify which areas the virus would potentially be and therefore, hand washing must be done correctly and frequently so,” Dr Chilufya said.

And the minister expressed his condolences to a 22-year-old health worker who died on Monday after a short illness.

“As I talk about health workers, allow me to express my sympathies [to the family of the] late Dr Abigail Mulenga, our 22-year-old intern who died last evening. The young lady had suffered from some headaches and had been unwell for more than a week and succumbed yesterday around 18:30. Dr Abigail Mulenga was a highly committed medical practitioner,” said Dr Chilufya. “She worked with the Ministry of Health in the last two months and showed her diligence and duty in a very short period of time. Today, we express deepest sympathies to the family and indeed a dark cloud covers the health sector as we have lost a gallant young fighter. The investigations done so far have not yet confirmed that there was related COVID but so far, what we have picked out are comorbidities and these comorbidities have been investigated thoroughly and noted. May her soul rest in peace.”

Meanwhile, Professor Mulenga said if prevention of COVID-19 was not done, a third of the country would be infected.

“We really need to know that where we are now, we have reached a stage when you compare to the population density we have as a country, the [17] million people and the number of infections that we have, we also compare to China, the similar population density and the number of cases that they have, we have more cases than China. We really look at the absolute numbers, we don’t look at the percentages of those that are infected relating it to the population, now that is very grave. We have projections that have shown that if we do not do anything, almost a third of the country would be infected. Now if we have a third of the country infected, and translate that to 20 percent of them getting into the facilities, that will be dangerous and we will be overwhelmed. And it will translate almost again to that percentage about, 1-2 percent of them dying. We are talking about thousands of deaths which we cannot afford,” said Prof Mulenga.

“And that will also go into economic disadvantages for the country. We will lose people, we will lose the economic impact which we don’t need to [lose] especially if it starts affecting the reproductive age group. We are seeing deaths in the young age group and if this is not [attended] to, we don’t prevent the infections, we are going to have a ripple effect on the economy, the community and also the health care systems will be overburdened.”