MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Kennedy Malama has announced that 148 COVID-19 cases have so far been recorded in primary and secondary schools since they re-opened in September.

Speaking during the weekly COVID-19 update in Lusaka, Wednesday, Dr Malama expressed concern over the non-enforcement of masking up and hand hygiene, thereby putting the learners and teachers at risk.

“Today, a special clarion call goes to our learning institutions, the schools, universities and colleges, some of whom are, unfortunately, relaxing adherence to the stipulated COVID-19 public health measures. We note with concern that some of the learning institutions are not enforcing masking up and hand hygiene. For those in boarding schools, it’s even more critical that we adhere to these public health measures. As you are aware, learning institutions are a congregate setting so the risk continues to be high in those settings. As a response, our school surveillance programme since schools fully opened has detected a total of 148 COVID-19 cases among learners and this is from 20 districts in the nine provinces of our country. Let me take this opportunity to assure parents that our learners are safe and we shall continue with the targeted surveillance and testing of learners so that we can cut the potential of the spread of COVID-19,” Dr Malama said.

“We would like to appeal to parents to encourage the learners to continue with their education programmes. We shall continue working with our colleagues in the Ministry of General Education and Higher Education so that together we can protect the health and lives of the learners, the teachers and all those who may be visiting institutions of learning. As we go into the holidays, we request the school authorities to emphasise, through health education, the need to adhere to the stipulated COVID-19 public health measures…the information we have shared, the 148 COVID-19 cases have been from primary and secondary schools.”

He further noted that heightened movement during the festive season remained a risk that could lead to an increase in the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s important to note that as the festive period commences, there will be heightened movement of families and individuals that also brings a risk of contracting COVID-19. Therefore, as a country, we need to remain resolute to ensuring that public health guidelines are adhered to. It is for this reason that his Excellency, the President Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, has continuously emphasised the five golden rules. If we are to maintain the gains we have scored so far in the fight against COVID-19, we must adhere to the five golden rules. It’s important that we don’t get tired with the five golden rules being repeated,” he said.

And Dr Malama announced that 165 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the last seven days with 331 recoveries.

“In the last seven days, Zambia recorded a total of 165 COVID-19 cases with 331 recoveries, while in the last 24 hours, as a country, we recorded 35 new cases of COVID-19 out of a total of 541 tests we conducted. These cases in the last 24 hours were detected in five districts of our country, namely: Chongwe, 2; Lusaka, 16; Mufulira, 2; Ndola, 3; Livingstone, 12. This brings the cumulative number of COIVD-19 cases in our country to 17,700, including 357 deaths. We continue to be encouraged by the very high recovery rate we continue to register as a country. But remember what we continue saying, as much as the majority of those contracting COVID-19 may recover, there is that significant percentage, 15 per cent thereabout, who may develop moderately severe disease and a number of those may succumb or die,” cautioned Dr Malama.

And Ministry Director for Infectious Diseases Prof Lloyd Mulenga said there had been a good response to the post-COVID-19 clinics.

“Indeed, as we said, we have been seeing a number of patients, who are reporting with complications of the lungs, others coming in with chest infections, pneumonia, and there is also data, which is also coming in from other countries as well recording similar pictures. Since the update, we haven’t lost any patient from such complications, including those that are coming in with post-COVID-19 syndrome. However, besides the chest infections, we are also seeing patients, who are coming in as we reported and we are managing them appropriately. There has been a good response since we made that announcement for people to come back, especially those that had any lung issues and we are managing them appropriately. In terms of re-infection among those that we have recorded so far from the last time we recorded on reinfection, it was about three weeks ago, we haven’t had any case of re-infection. Those that have come in are just suspected to but were not proven to have COVID-19 and one of them is one of those patients admitted at Levy Hospital,” said Prof Mulenga.