HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda has warned young doctors, nurses and pharmacists not to fall prey to politicians by being paraded to protest.

And Dr Chanda says the country has recorded 580 new COVID-19 cases and eight deaths.

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda says the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development has scheduled a virtual commemoration of the Youth Day celebrations.

Speaking during the COVID-19 briefing, Thursday, Dr Chanda said once the health workers were paraded on the streets, they would suffer the consequences.

“My appeal is to the health workers especially the young doctors, nurses, pharmacists, people who have done clinical medicine, clinical officers and many others in the health sector. Just to emphasize they need to be patient as we engage with the Ministry of Youths, Sports and Child development and Ministry of Finance in terms of absorbing them through attachments. And also just to give them a friendly warning, friendly advice not to fall prey to politicians to be paraded. Once you are paraded on the streets you suffer the consequences alone because every country has rules, we don’t want to bring politicians in the health sector,” Dr Chanda said.

“So those who want to do full time politics they can join political parties especially in an election year. But those who genuinely want to engage, our doors are open and personally I have an open door policy. We should engage very closely with representatives of all health workers in the country so that together we can have better outcomes for our people because we need the health workforce in order to assure that the nation is healthy, wealthy and productive.”

He said the cumulative number of cases stood at 83,913.

“We recorded 580 new cases out of 5,565 tests conducted (10 percent positivity). Of the positive samples, 65 percent were collected within the last 24-72 hours, whereas 35 percent were older than 72 hours. The new cases reported by province are broken down as follows: 150 Eastern, 143 Copperbelt, 113 Luapula, 76 Lusaka, 32 North-western, 29 Southern, 27 Northern, 5 Western, 4 Central, and 6 Muchinga. This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 83,913. Eight new deaths were reported, broken down by province as follows: Copperbelt two, Eastern two , Luapula one, Muchinga one, North-western one and Southern one. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date now stands at 1,148,” he said.

“The deaths are classified as 631 COVID deaths and 51 7 COVID19 associated deaths. A combined 471 discharges were made from both the COViD-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 80,027 (95 percent). We currently have 2,738 active cases, of whom 2,556 (93 percent) are under community management and 182 (7 percent) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those admitted, 120 (66 percent) are on Oxygen therapy and 27 (15 percent) are in critical condition.”

Dr Chanda explained that with increased stocks of testing reagents expected in the country shortly, he anticipated that the backlog of samples would be completely cleared.

“As we strive to ensure that all backlog samples are promptly cleared, we are cognizant that the percentage of our test positivity that reflects past samples may in effect explain our lower rate of reducing positivity compared to other countries in the region. However, we do have an obligation to capture both the past and present epidemiologically pictures in order to provide a more holistic view of the evolving pandemic also reflected in declining case admissions and falling mortality. With increased stocks of testing reagents expected in the country shortly, we anticipate that the backlog will be completely cleared and the reported positivity will be more reflective of the prevailing epidemiological picture,” Dr Chanda said.

He said the Youth Day celebrations would be held virtually,

“As we head into yet another long weekend, we remain on high alert and have duly strengthened our community efforts and heightened surveillance activities in a multi-sectoral manner ahead of the Youth Day celebrations scheduled for tomorrow so as to minimise the risk of further super spread of infections through crowding. The Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development has scheduled a virtual commemoration, while wreath laying will be carried out in a controlled manner. Additionally, leadership and guidance has been provided to the provinces and districts to ensure the commemorations are similarly held in a safe manner as prescribed by public health guidance,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda said the country has capacity to store the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The Zambian government under the leadership of His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu continues to make the necessary strides towards preparations for COVID-19 vaccine acquisition and deployment. It is disheartening to note online/social media reports purporting that Zambia does not have the capacity to store the COVID-19 vaccines. On the contrary, Zambia has functional cold chain systems and routine infrastructure utilised for our Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI). The cold chain capacity is well outlined in our National Vaccine Deployment plan, which also has provision for strengthening the current infrastructure once we obtain Cabinet approval for the COVID-19 vaccine acquisition and deployment,” said Dr Chanda.

“Therefore, I wish to state that the stories are unfounded and should be disregarded as cheap propaganda. Furthermore, the Ministry of Health continues to take action against elements eroding trust in the health service delivery system, including those tied to the issuance of fake COVID-19 Certificates and charging for services that should be offered free of charge to the public. As I have stated before, we are committed to restoring the trust and confidence of the Zambian people as well as the outside world in our systems. I would like to issue a stern warning to the unscrupulous people involved issuing fake COVID-19 negative certificates that their days are numbered as they will be met with maximum force and prosecuted accordingly. I have directed the Ministry of Health and other Regulatory Agencies to move in quickly and act on these unscrupulous people, including reporting to Law Enforcement Agencies.”