MINISTER of Health Dr Jonas Chanda has announced that the country has recorded 963 new COVID-19 cases out of 6,747 tests and 20 deaths in the last 24 hours.

In a statement, Wednesday, Dr Chanda stated that of the positive samples, 645 were collected in the last 24-72 hours whereas 318 were older than 72 hours.

“We recorded 963 new cases out of 6,747 tests conducted (14.27% positivity). Of the positive samples, 645 were collected in the last 24-72 hours whereas 318 were older than 72hours. The cases by province were reported from: 234 Lusaka, 185 Copperbelt, 147 North-western, 80 Northern, 72 Luapula, 71 Eastern, 61 Central, 61 Southern, 35 Muchinga, and 17 Western. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 65,573. 20 new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, one of the highest number of mortalities we have recorded in the last few days. The deaths reported by province are as follows: Copperbelt (7), North-western (4), Lusaka (3), Eastern (2), Northern (2), Central (1), and Luapula (1). The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date now stands at 901, classified as 457 COVID deaths and 444 COVID-19 associated deaths,” he stated.

“We recorded an additional 556 discharges from both home management and COVID-19 isolation facilities, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 58,875. We currently have 5,797 active cases, of which 5,393 (93%) are under community management and 404 (7%) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities, with 260 on Oxygen therapy and 42 in critical condition. The age range of those admitted is 17-95years. We welcome Forest Park to our team of COVID-19 isolation facilities and will continue to identify additional facilities for case management.”

He added that out of 6,500 learners tested countrywide, 50 tested positive and were mostly from Southern Province.

“Our policy decision to reopen schools and higher learning institutions factored in the possibility that some teachers and pupils would test positive. We continue to routinely screen and swab learners as part of our compliance monitoring and in the last 24 hours, over 6,500 students were screened, and 50(0.8%) country-wide were found positive, most of whom were from Southern province. Our teams of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), Environmental Health and Surveillance experts are continually providing context specific guidance to schools around the country. In terms of day-scholars, positive students will be managed at home while their contacts are traced and the school environment sanitised. On the other hand, children in boarding schools, where boarders sleep in common dormitories and interact for longer periods with their fellow students will be managed in the context of a facility-based case. Any positive cases in boarding schools should be isolated, and their contacts quarantined and tested to ensure the risk of further spread is mitigated. In this regard, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with our colleagues from the Ministries of General Education and Higher Education, will be releasing the guidelines in this regard shortly,” he stated.

The Minister warned against the use of Ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19 as there was limited evidence of its efficacy.

“We have continued to receive reports of widespread use of the drug Ivermectin, which is still being dispensed by some pharmacies and private facilities. The Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority provided guidance on the dangers of the use of this drug, which is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and furthermore, there is currently limited evidence for its efficacy. I urge the public to make informed choices and only acquire their medicines from legitimate sources,” Dr Chanda stated.

He added that there had been reports of a haemorrhagic deaths in Southern Tanzania and borders such as Nakonde had been placed on high alert.

“In the same vein, I wish to inform the nation that we have received reports of a cluster of haemorrhagic deaths in Chunya District in Southern Tanzania which are being investigated. Our rapid response teams in the border areas including Nakonde have been placed on high alert and we will keep you informed on this developing situation,” stated Dr Chanda.

“Our disease intelligence plays a critical role in monitoring disease trends both in country and in the region. Zambia as you know shares long borders, and it remains critical that our Points of Entry to meticulously screen travellers to avoid the importation of diseases including various variants of the Corona Virus. We are therefore working to ensure that Rapid Diagnostic Testing (RDT) testing at entry points (borders, airports, ports) is ramped up and we will be engaging with a number of private players who have expressed interest in supporting point of entry and departure testing in line with international best practices.”