MINISTRY of Health permanent secretary technical services Dr Kennedy Malama has announced that the country has recorded 85 new COVID-19 cases out of 2,050 tests done in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases recorded so far to 15,982.

And Ministry of Health director for infectious diseases Professor Lloyd Mulenga says the country has now introduced a 15 minutes rapid testing for COVID-19 but will be restricted to health facilities.

Speaking during the COVID-19 update, Dr Malama noted that despite the reduction in the number of cases, the severity of disease being presented, without underlying conditions was worrying.

“Let me mention that although we have seen significant reduction in the number of patients who are admitted for COVID-19 and receiving treatment, we are still seeing very, very sick patients indeed admitted. The few whom we are still keeping in our hospitals require very aggressive management for us to save them. Again an indication that you shouldn’t drop the guard at all levels because we are not sure who the next person may be developing the severe form of COVID-19. And if as a country we can record 85 new cases, it’s also an indication that this pandemic is still with us as a country,” he said.

“A total of 85 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded out of a total of 2,050 tests which we conducted. These cases, the 85 were detected; in Lusaka 48, Copperbelt 18, Northern Province 11, Muchinga 12, North western 4 and these were through the various forms of screening and testing we do. We also have people we are managing in our health care facilities, the COVID-19 treatment centre a total of eight in our isolation centres. In Lusaka, Levy Mwanawasa isolation and treatment centre, we have five patients with four on oxygen therapy.”

The cumulative total now stands at 15,982 cases with 15, 038 recoveries with 346 deaths.

He added that even young people are now presenting with severe forms of the disease.

“We have a 19 year old, 21 year old, again amplifying the importance of always not to trivialise COVID-19 that it doesn’t affect young people because young people can also get the severe form of COVID-19 looking at the situation we have as a country at the moment,” said Dr Malama.

And Prof Mulenga revealed that the country has introduced a rapid antigen test that will see patients get results within 15 minutes.

“The country has introduced a rapid antigen test. It is done from the same swab which we insert in the nose, we get that sample, we put in some medium. And we are able to get fluid from that medium and place it on this. Just like the usual malaria, HIV test which we do and within 15 minutes we are able to tell if someone has COVID-19. The two lines will show that someone has got COVID-19, if its one line then someone has no COVID-19. However, the use of this should be limited in our setting and we are encouraging to be used in hospitals and also those who are contacts to the positive because the sensitivity is on the lower side compared to the PCR which we encourage everyone to do. This is in line with the WHO guidelines as of the 7th of this month,” said Prof Mulenga.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Higher Education director vocational education and training Alex Simuumba revealed that no COVID-19 case has so far been recorded in the countries colleges and universities across the country.