HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda has announced that the World Bank, through the Zambia COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project, has provided over US $15 million in financing towards the purchase of ambulances and laboratory equipment, among others.

Speaking during the COVID-19 briefing in Lusaka, Thursday, Dr Chanda hailed the World Bank’s financial contribution in tackling the virus and expressed gratitude to other cooperating partners who had continued to support Zambia during the pandemic period.

“Government remains grateful to our all-weather friends, the cooperating partners, who have stood with us throughout the pandemic. The World Bank, through the Zambia COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project, has provided over US $15 million in financing towards the purchase of ambulances, laboratory equipment, drugs, PPE and medical equipment among others,” Dr Chanda announced.

He also urged the citizenry to avoid relaxing their adherence to preventive measures as it might lead to a third wave of the pandemic.

“We continue to record huge reductions in case admissions to a low of 212 today (Thursday). Similarly, we have seen our daily positivity rate halved. The mortality rate of one today is the lowest it has been since the onset of the second wave. Yet I must stress once more that this is by no means an indication that we should lower our guard. If we are to learn anything from this pandemic, it is that each time our guard has been lowered, as happened during the first wave, our numbers in case admissions and mortality have seen a proportionate increase. We must sustain our community sensitisation and behaviour change efforts towards adherence to public health guidelines if we are to avert a possible third wave projected in the coming cold months of June/July,” Dr Chanda urged.

He said the Ministry of Health had primed its systems to trigger reorder levels of essential commodities well in advance to avoid stock-outs.

“The Zambian government has also put in place the necessary systems strengthening measures as well as increased availability of human resources. We have deployed senior registrars and consultants in a number of our facilities across the country and plan to scale-up this deployment around the country. In a bid to ensure commodity security, we have primed our systems to trigger reorder levels of essential commodities well in advance to avoid stock-outs. With the observed reduction in case admissions, we have been afforded an opportunity to heighten WASH in our facilities and we continue to encourage similar heightened Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, (WASH) in our communities. In order to stay abreast of the ever-changing epidemiology of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made headway in finalising our strategy for routine genomic sequencing surveillance,” he said.

“As we continue to enhance surveillance through routine screening and testing, we are also cognisant of the requirements of other nations in terms of testing, including the recent additional requirement of an antibody test for travel to China. Zambia currently only recommends the use of the Panbio and Standard Q antigen tests. We have, however, engaged our laboratory teams in light of this new development and we will provide guidance in line with WHO recommendations. As previously alluded in an earlier press statement, the WHO has indicated that there are currently 23 additional RDTs undergoing review and we expect an increase in the choice of available recommended RDTs by end of March/April, 2021.”

And Dr Chanda announced that the country recorded 597 new COVID-19 cases out of 7,418 tests done in the last 24 hours.

“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to provide you with the COVID-19 situation update for the last 24 hours. We recorded 597 new cases out of 7,418 tests conducted (8 per cent positivity). This sustained single-digit positivity over the last five days is certainly encouraging and we must ensure that we sustain it. Of the samples that tested positive, 363 were collected in the last 24-72 hours, while 234 were older than 72 hours. The new cases reported by province are broken down as follows: 123, Eastern; 120, Copperbelt; 105, Lusaka; 65, Luapula; 51, North-Western; 46, Muchinga; 44, Southern; 34, Northern; six, Central and three, Western. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 80,687,” he said.

He said the country also recorded the lowest mortality rate of one death since the onset of the second wave.

“Today, we report the lowest mortality on record since the start of the second wave, with only one death recorded from the Copperbelt in the last 24 hours. We commend our case management teams for their tireless efforts to ensure that we reduce the number of deaths from COVlD-19. The cumulative number of COVID-19-related deaths recorded to date now stands at 1,109. The deaths are classified as 606 COVID deaths and 503 COVID-19 associated deaths,” said Dr Chanda.

“We have recorded a combined total of 199 recoveries from both the COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 76,498 (95 per cent). We currently have 3,080 active cases, of whom 2,868 (93 per cent) are under community management and 212 (7 per cent) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those hospitalised, 149 (71 per cent) are on oxygen therapy and 36 (17 per cent) are in critical condition.”