MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary for technical services Dr Kennedy Malama says the county has recorded 91 new COVID-19 cases out of 599 tests conducted.

And Dr Malama says the country is experiencing some drug shortages because some manufacturing companies have closed down.

Speaking during the daily COVID-19 updates, Wednesday, Dr Malama said 32 people were on oxygen support.

“In the last 24 hours, Zambia has recorded 91 new cases of COVID-19 out of a total of 599 tests conducted. This therefore brings the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Zambia to 11,376. The 91 cases we are reporting on in the last 24 hours include, 34 contacts to known cases. In Lusaka, 31; in Ndola, two and Kitwe one. We also had 30 individuals whom we identified through hospital screening. Lusaka 20, Ndola 10. We had 27 individuals identified through routine screening in Lusaka 25 and Ndola two. You still see a pattern in which Lusaka and Copper belt remain predominant but that does not negate the importance of infections which continue to be reported in other parts of the country,” Dr Malama said.

“And this is the information we are using to urge all Zambians irrespective of where you stay to take necessary precautions to protect yourself from contracting COVID-19. When we look at those whom we are treating in our facilities, currently we have 57 patients admitted to Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital isolation centre. Of these, 32 are currently on oxygen therapy, six are in the intensive care unit and one is on a ventilator. This scenario already gives you the severity of COVID-19,”

He said patients were put on ventilators when oxygen support therapies failed.

“We put a patient on a ventilator when all the supportive oxygen therapy systems fail to support that individual patient. And we call upon the machine to take over the breathing of that particular patient. So the fact that we continue reporting our people on a ventilator in our hospitals signifies also the severity of COVID-19 and also the 32 of our people on oxygen shows you the magnitude of COVID-19. And that oxygen remains one of our key therapies in the response.

The cumulative number of deaths linked with COVID-19 for Zambia remains at 282. All these we have classified them as follows; 91 deaths are due to COVID-19 while 191 are COVID-19 associated deaths.” he said.

Dr Malama said the number of recoveries were encouraging.

“Today we are discharging a total of 294 patients bringing the cumulative total of recoveries in Zambia to 10,693. And we take this opportunity to commend the front liners workers, the health workers, who are working across all pillars from the community, the laboratory, in our health facilities, those who are involved in ensuring that PPEs and other commodities are available. The hardworking team in risk communication and community engagement. We remain indebted to them. Therefore the cumulative figures for Zambia for COVID-19 stands at 11,376 including 282 deaths and 10, 693 recoveries. Our recovery as a country is about 91 percent. Quite encouraging,” Dr Malama said.

When asked if there were drug shortages, Dr Malama responded in the affirmative.

“To the members of the public it is important that we unpack this question. We know the common disease Zambians are afflicted with for example HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria these are the major communicable diseases but we also have what we call neglected tropical disease like trachoma affecting the eyes, you have diseases like leprosy among others. But we also have non communicable diseases like cancers, conditions coming as a result of trauma, injuries, strokes, high blood pressure, and heart attacks. You also have sugar disease. So when you look at these diseases, as a country we have profiled them. When you have a condition, maybe drug number one is not available, we go for drug number two and number three. Just like painkillers, you may require aspirin, if it is not available, you may be given ibuprofen, paracetamol or any other drugs,” Dr Malama said.

“At the moment, it is possible there are drugs which may not be there but it’s incumbent upon that health facility to ensure that our people are given an alternative. For instance, if you talk about HIV I don’t expect any shortage in our country because I know we are commodity secure. When you ask me for drugs for TB for instance I know we are commodity secure. There are some drugs we have had a challenge and the main reason has been the global supply challenge,”

He said some manufacturing companies had closed.

“You know COVID-19 has brought in a number of challenges. Some orders which were placed by companies which were localized in Zambia but also ourselves as Ministry of Health, some of these consignments have been quarantined elsewhere and the coming in has been delayed. So there are a number of factors when you hear that one drug may not be there, it could be attributed to that. But at the moment, I am confident that we should be able to save a life when our people present to health facilities for life saving medications,” he said.

Dr Malama said testing reagents were also a challenge because some manufacturing companies have closed.

“Again testing has not been spared by the global supply challenge. I can inform you that we placed quite a number of orders to get testing reagents for various platforms. Some of these are yet to come. We are happy that some have come but we are not happy we would want to get as many testing reagents as possible. The biggest challenge with the testing why it is so dynamic and changes frequently is because of the global supply shocks as a result of COVID-19. Some of the manufacturing companies closed, some of the flights were suspended so bringing these commodities into Zambia has been a challenge. And also the actual manufacturing. We commend the World Health Organisation for trying to help Zambia to mobilise more reagents but even there, there is congestion on the pipeline but we are confident in the coming days or weeks things should change.” said Dr Malama.

Meanwhile, ZANACO donated five ventilators valued at K2.9 million towards the fight against COVID-19.