MINISTER of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya says the country has seen a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases after recording a low of 61 new cases from 1,521 tests done in the last 24 hours.

And Dr Chilufya data following the reduction in cases, the daily update will now be done twice a week with statistics released on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, director of clinical services Professor Lloyd Mulenga says schools should ensure that they have safe places where children and learners can go and breath after having a mask for a long while.

Speaking during the daily update, Sunday, Dr Chilufya noted that the country had seen a reduction in the number of patients in the isolation centres which was a good indicator for the country.

“Today, we continue to see a reduction in the number of patients in the hospitals, in the COVID-19 facilities, which is a good indicator. We see a critical mass of citizens in various parts of the country wearing masks, it’s a good thing. It is the reason why we have seen a reduced transmission, we have seen reduced transmission from the tests that we do. This must be encouraged…In the last few weeks, you noted we had high numbers of people in our hospitals who were very sick, we needed to mop,” Dr Chilufya said. “Kudos to the clinical teams, they kept the mortality low and treated a lot of our patients who have been discharged. The reduced numbers that we see in our clinical facilities gives us yet another window to push back the interventions in the community where we must ensure transmission is disrupted and we close the leaking tap in the community and we continue to see less and less numbers in our hospitals until we have zero number of cases in our hospitals.”

He said more of the new cases were from communities and truck drivers.

“61 cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours out of 1,521 tests done and these have been recorded in Lusaka, Nakonde, Kabwe, Serenje. Therefore, our cumulative number of cases now stands at 14,131. The distribution, again you see truck drivers, you see members of the community during routine screening,” Dr Chilufya said. “When we look at the number of deaths, the total number of deaths stands at 330 and these are classified as 111 due to COVID-19, 216 due to COVID-19 related deaths and 3 others are being reviewed. As we speak today, we have seen a reduced number of cases in our COVID-19 facilities, a good indicator but that also summons us to shift the fight into the community. So 34 patients in our various facilities with 15 on oxygen.”

He said the reduced community transmission was attributable to the improved use of masks in the country.

“So the understanding of the situation today with the reduced numbers in the hospitals is that cases which are coming in are going lower, the community transmission is reduced and this is attributable to the improved use of masks. Going around the country, I have seen a critical mass of Zambians wearing masks, therefore the sensitization has been working. This can be sustained only if we upscale these same measures we have been talking about, the five golden rules,” Dr Chilufya said.

And the Minister announced that the mode of updates would change, with live briefings only being done on Mondays and Fridays white an updatable dashboard of statistics would be released on a daily basis.

“The compliance levels countrywide to health measures, generally, has improved. Positivity has gone down, today we report the lowest positivity of four percent. This is commendable and we must commend the public for adhering to the golden rules of masking up in addition to other rules. This is informing the cautious relaxation of restrictions. Going forward, as the number of cases of COVID-19 is abetting and the community is responding very well in engaging with us, the updates are going to be equally restructured. We are now going to be issuing updates twice in a week on Monday we will be reviewing the weekend and on Friday, we will be reviewing what has happened during the week but on a daily basis, there will be press releases or an updatable dashboard which will show you the new cases on a daily basis,” said Dr Chilufya.

Meanwhile, Prof Mulenga said the confidence to stop children from masking up is derived from the data showing 0.05 positivity in that age group.

“We look at the age group of two years and also looked at the age group below five years and for us, we looked at the data which we have had in Zambia; those less than five years, less than 0.05 percent have been infected. So when we looked at that data, we found that the risk of acquisition is low, which can give us confidence that we can recommend no masking for those below five. However, even as we do so, we need to protect these little ones, which is why we need to have safe places in the school places so that even those who are masking up can have time to breath,” said Prof Mulenga.

“The recommendation for Zambia is those who are five years and above should mask up, then those who are below five years, they should not but we are advising that they should have a loose cloth around the face. Now that cloth when it’s put on the face, it’s largely trying to protect the individuals who they infect, it’s not protecting them. It’s protecting the one who is next to them, if they have COVID-19.”