HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says the country has recorded 902 new COVID-19 cases out 5,231 tests conducted.

And Dr Chanda says 11 people have succumbed to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda says his Ministry is concerned with the continued reports of the use of Ivermectin as an “alleged cure” for COVID-19.

In a statement, Wednesday, Dr Chanda said the cumulative number of confirmed cases now stood at 76,484.

“My fellow countrymen and women, the COVID-19 situation update for the last 24 hours is as follows: We recorded 902 new cases out of 5,231 tests conducted, 17 percent positivity. The cases were reported from the following provinces: 244 Southern, 185 Copperbelt, 124 Lusaka, 119 Luapula, 93 Eastern, 46 Muchinga, 39 North-western, 37 Northern, 9 Central, and 6 Western. Of the positive samples, 459 were collected in the last 24-72 hours whereas 443 were older than 72 hours. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 76,484,” Dr Chanda said.

“On a sad note, we recorded 11 deaths from the following provinces: Lusaka five, Northern three, Central one, Copperbelt one, and Eastern one. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date now stands at 1,051. The deaths are classified as 570 COVID deaths and 481 COVID-19 associated deaths. We report an additional 367 discharges from both COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 69,803 (91 percent). We currently have 5,630 active cases. Among the active cases, 5,343 (95 percent) are under community management whereas 287( five percent) are admitted to our COVID 19 isolation facilities. Of those admitted, 196 (68 percent) are on Oxygen therapy and 45 (16 percent) are in critical condition.”

And Dr Chanda said the Zambia Medicines and Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) had instituted investigations into reports of the use of Ivermectin as an “alleged cure” for COVID-19.

“The Ministry of Health is concerned with the continued reports of the use of Ivermectin as an “alleged cure” for Coronavirus. The Zambia Medicines and Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) has instituted investigations into recent events in Eastern Province, and not pharmaceutical products not licensed will be allowed so that we protect the health of Zambians,” Dr Chanda said.

“It is disheartening to note that many Zambians in Lusaka and many towns continue to disregard the use of face masks in public. This laxity is very worrying and will cost us the positive gains we have made in the response. It is even more sad that this laxity is also being seen in some of our health facilities, existing which are by their very nature highly infectious spaces. In line with public health guidelines all heads of health institutions have been instructed that no patient or visitor to a health facility should be granted entry if they are not wearing a face mask in order to protect them and protect other patient’s lives. Furthermore, by enhancing our interventions now, we will be better placed to mount an effective response should we be hit by a third wave in June/July when it is cold season.”

Dr Chanda said the Ministry would soon engage the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Affairs with regards to the planned countrywide street prayers.

“The Ministry of Health under the guidance of His Excellency the President is scheduled to engage the Chinese embassy regarding provision of support for oxygen demand to the new specialist hospital in Lusaka. The Ministry is also scheduled to engage with the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs with regard to provision of guidance for planned country-wide street prayers for our nation,” Dr Chanda said.

“As we continue to observe a reduction in the number of admissions to the lowest number 287 since the onset of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also note that the number of our critical patients admitted remains high. It is therefore important that our communities understand that the danger of COVID-19 is very real and they must take the necessary action to avoid becoming one of our statistics. Now is not the time to relax; community interventions must continue so that we disrupt the chains of transmission.”

He said the Ministry of Health was also scheduled to hold an engagement meeting with the Ministry of General Education to strengthen school surveillance and compliance monitoring on COVID-19.

“The Ministry of Health is today scheduled to hold an engagement meeting with the Ministry of Education to further strengthen our efforts on school surveillance and compliance monitoring. Today’s meeting is also expected to consolidate the guidance provided to schools around the country. We remain committed to our pledge to ensure that our learning institutions continue to be a safe space for our teachers and our learners,” said Dr Chanda.

“We are cognizant that the principles and guidance for day schools and boarding schools should be dissimilar given that the circumstances for monitoring compliance in these two environments are different. We must ensure that children in boarding school are complying to the guidance even after classroom hours. I wish to reiterate that we will take action against any schools not complying to the guidance. We will not allow our schools to become hotspots for uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. We also encourage our school administrators to take a leaf from the experiences and best practices of schools in the region and far afield and implementing these at home; for instance, Abu Dhabi’s school surveillance system has recently been highlighted in the media as being effective for ensuring safety of learners and teachers.”