MINISTER of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya has warned that the country risks having a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in December if preventive guidelines are not adhered to.

Speaking during a COVID-19 update, Monday, Dr Chilufya said that Lusaka, Copperbelt and North Western Provinces remained epicentres, adding that 63 cases were recorded in the last 24 hours.

This brings the cumulative number of cases to 16,543 with 15,733 recoveries and 349 deaths since the pandemic began.

“The country in the last 24 hours conducted 5,771 tests out of which 63 were positive. We did not record any deaths therefore our deaths still remain at 349. The 63 new cases are coming from the Copperbelt, North Western and Lusaka the three provinces continue to be the epicentres for COVID-19,” Dr Chilufya said.

“Despite the dwindling numbers, it is time for us to adhere to the directives that His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has given in the past for us to ramp up public health measures in order to protect ourselves with COVID-19. We have noted with concern the happening in the region in Europe and in America where cases have continued to spike and here, countries have gone back into lockdowns. That possibility is not remote for Zambia and our epidemiological modelling did indicate that in the event that we do not adhere to the measures that have been stipulated, we risk having a spike in the month of December.”

He SAID with the dwindling number of patients, the Levy Mwanawasa Central Hospital would now be open to the public for routine medical services.

“Currently, we only have one patient admitted to the Levy Mwanawasa Medical University COVID-19 centre and as we announced last week, the Levy Mwanawasa Central hospital will now be open to the public for routine health services and we shall confine management of COVID-19 to the infectious diseases unit and to the ICU which has certain unique facilities needed to handle COVID-19. However, we are using this window to escalate our levels of preparedness in the event of a second wave for COVID-19. For now, we are repurposing the use of our COVID-19 facilities to re-establish, to strengthen routine health services,” said Dr Chilufya.

He said there were also six patients currently admitted in North Western Province, four of whom were on oxygen support.