HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says the country has recorded 575 new COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths in the last 24 hours.

And Dr Chanda says Zambia has received US$500,000 from the United States government towards the COVID-19 response.

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda says there is no room for fake and substandard vaccines in Zambia.

Speaking during a press briefing, Tuesday, Dr Chanda said the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded stood at 70,823.

“We recorded 575 new cases out of 5,249 tests conducted that is an 11 percent positivity rate. The cases by province were reported from Lusaka 145, 99 Muchinga, 92 Copperbelt, 70 North Western, 61 Central, 60 Northern, 37 Southern and 11 Western. The cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded today now stands at 70,823. Regrettably, we recorded 15 new deaths from the following provinces: Eastern four, Copperbelt three, North-Western three, Luapula two, Central one, Lusaka one and Muchinga one. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths to date now stands at 974 classified as 514 covid deaths and 460 COVID-19 related associated deaths,” Dr Chanda said.

“We have recorded an additional 347 recoveries from both home management and COVID-19 isolation facilities, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 63,609. That is a recovery rate of 90 percent. We currently have 6,240 active cases. Of these, 319 or five percent are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities with 230 which or 70 percent on oxygen therapy and 38 in critical condition. The remaining 5,921 or 95 percent of cases are under community management.”

He said there had been a drastic reduction in the number of patients occupying health facilities.

“The marked reduction in case admission is commendable. However, we continue to see patients presenting severe disease. The few that are admitted have severe diseases while we have noticed if you go to places like Levy, Maina Soko, UTH covid centre most of the facilities now stand at 30 percent in terms of occupancy. So there has been a huge drastic reduction in the number of patients occupying health facilities. Our fifth golden rule emphasizes the importance of seeking medical attention early if you are asymptotic as we face the possibility of a third wave compounded by long term effects of COVID-19 illness, our diligent case management teams remain on hand to provide the needed healthcare,” he said.

And Dr Chanda said the money donated by the US government would include purchase of commodities and recruitment of temporal health care staff.

“In the spirit of transparency and accountability of resources committed by our corporating partners and stakeholders, I wish to inform the nation that we have received support from the US government amounting to US$500,000 towards the COVID-19 response. This will include purchase of commodities and recruitment of temporal staff health care staff towards this fight. This is a show of confidence by the US government in the Zambia’s government COVID response led by His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu,” Dr Chanda said.

“The Ministry of Health further acknowledges all our whether friends the cooperating partners for their continued support to the Zambian government and the COVID-19 response in particular. At a time when governments world over are grappling with their own domestic response to the COVID-19 it is gratifying to note that our partners have remained by our side and continue to offer their unwavering support. With the opening of the borders in the sub region, here in Southern Africa, we remain vigilant to the risk of importation of diseases through our entry points including airports and border points.”

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda insisted that said government would only recommend and approve a vaccine which was safe and efficacious for deployment.

“I think for those who follow international media there are reports of fake vaccines on the market and also vaccines which are less efficacious towards some variants of the coronavirus. I wish to reiterate our commitment to the Zambian people that the government under the leadership of His Excellency the President Edgar Chagwa Lungu will only recommend and approve a vaccine that is safe and efficacious for deployment. There will be no room for fake and substandard vaccines in Zambia as the Zambian people’s safety will be top priority,” he said.

“Our surveillance and rapid response teams in our border points are on high alert to identify and respond to any threats. Furthermore, we have engaged with our counterparts in neighboring countries through our cross border initiatives. In line with SADC protocol on health, we have called on member States to contribute to the regional efforts for coordinated disease surveillance, epidemic control and health security. As we finalise our preparations to obtain cabinet approval for the COVID-19 acquisition and deployment, we are closely monitoring the global situation with some notable and worrying reports of fake vaccines on the global market.”

Dr Chanda said he would next week engage the Electoral Commission of Zambia on public health and safety measures during campaigns.

“As we are all aware this is an election year, in light of the current pandemic, it is imperative that we have forward thinking and adequately prepared to hold the elections in a peaceful and safe manner so as to reduce the potential for further COVID-19 transmission. The Ministry of Health is scheduled to engage the Electoral Commission of Zambia next week in order to provide guidance on public health and safety measures during campaigns, elections and after elections,” he said.

Dr Chanda said the country had not recorded any cases of cholera.

“It is worth noting that Zambia has not recorded any cases of cholera since the onset of this season. Allow me to also update you on additional developments in our health security efforts, the Zambian government set a legacy goal to eliminate cholera in the country by the year 2025. In this regard, we have secured 2 million doses of oral cholera vaccine as part of our multi-sectorial cholera elimination plan. In leading by example, Zambia has marked all cholera hotspots in the country and the 2 million cholera vaccines will be targeted for cholera hotspots in Lusaka in places like Kanyama. This will be in addition to cholera vaccination campaigns conducted in the first round in Nsama and Shibuyunji districts. Cholera vaccination in addition to other preventive measures therefore saves as a good example of the effectiveness of vaccination strategies in disease control especially now that Zambia plans to roll out the covid-19 vaccine,” said Dr Chanda.

Meanwhile, Africa Medical and Research Foundation donated PPEs worth US$ 1,649,230 and Dr Chanda hoped no staff at the ministry would steal the protective equipment.