MINISTER of Health Dr Jonas Chanda says the country has recorded 1,308 new COVID-19 cases out of 12,123 tests done with 19 deaths recorded in the last 24 hours.

Speaking after touring the University Teaching Hospital, Tuesday, Dr Chanda said 389 patients were admitted to the health facilities across the country with 280 on oxygen therapy.

“Today, Zambia has recorded 1,308 new cases of COVID-19 out of the 12,123 tests done in the last 24 hours. The cumulative number of cases nationally is now 39,516. 389 patients are admitted to our health facilities, 280 are on oxygen therapy 26 of whom are critical. A total of 739 cases have been discharged from our facilities and home based care management bringing the cumulative recoveries to 28,066. Sadly, 13 mortalities were recorded in the health care facilities while six deaths were recorded in the community brought in as BID. The 13 deaths were classified as five, COVID-19 deaths, three associated deaths and five yet to be classified. The cumulative COVID-19 related deaths are now at 578 broken down as follows: 221 COVID-19 deaths, 339 associated and 18 yet to be classified,” he said.

He said the country was revising its testing strategy.

“I also wish to update the public that the ministry is revising the COVID-19 testing strategy that is the criteria on who qualifies to be tested in the nation. The revision of the testing strategy has been necessitated by the increase in case numbers, geographical spread, generalised community spread of COVID-19 and resultant increased laboratory turnaround time. This will result in prioritising testing for those among us who need it the most to ensure they are accorded the necessary health attention,” he said.

“In addition to the testing strategy, I should also mention that in terms of the case management strategy, testing COVID-19 positive is not a death sentence, that’s what we have to know. Our main aim as Ministry of Health using the multi-sectoral approach is prevention, we have to prevent people getting COVID-19 in the first place and the best place to prevent COVID-19 is at the community level, at the household level, that is why we are engaging with other entities in a multi sectoral approach because everyone has a house where they come from…”

He said not everyone who tested positive would need hospital care as only those with severe symptoms would be admitted to health facilities.

“The case management, not every COVID-19 positive case needs to be in a hospital and I think the ministry of health will be providing guidance so that we are all clear. Of you test COVID-19 positive, you don’t have symptoms or you have mild symptoms, you are managed at home using a home based care approach. It’s only when you alert health care workers like the symptoms are getting worse, you need oxygen support or something like that, critical care that is when that will trigger employing a health facility based kind of management. Otherwise if every COVID-19 positive person goes to the hospitals the facilities, we will create a crisis, they will be overwhelmed. We don’t have the capacity to manage all the Zambians who test positive for COVID-19 but we are assuring you of the highest care, whether it’s home based care or facility based care. But as much as possible home based care is a primary approach for us,” Dr Chanda said.

And the Minister called on ZAMRA to mop up the fake COVID-19 vaccines that had hit the market.

“We expect that the ministry of health will provide guidance so that people are not being misled because right now on the market we have received a lot of information, people bringing unlicensed drugs from China and other places which are being sold and I hope ZAMRA has done its job to mop up all those kinds of products. I also got holes from one, I hear there is a clinic in Lusaka which is saying they have a cure for COVID-19, 99.99 percent cure. So, I don’t know where they did their trials, I hope they followed the laid down procedures for research in terms of human subjects,” said Dr Chanda .

“There is nothing to hide about the vaccine, they are happening transparently internationally, the vaccine will go to cabinet and be issued in form of a cabinet memo which we shall co-sponsor with the ministry of finance be aide it’s also about sustainability. If cabinet gives an approval for the COVID-19 vaccine then we will go ahead, if cabinet says no then we will not go ahead but all the information will be availed, there is nothing to hide, it will be done in a very transparent manner and I ask members of the media not to entertain conspiracy theories because with conspiracy theories like witchcraft, you don’t have to prove it, just say this one flies at night but no evidence.”

He said his ministry was also working very closely with the Traditional Healers Association of Zambia and added that the Ministry would soon present a Traditional Alternative Medicines Bill to Parliament.