MINISTER of Health Dr Jonas Chanda says the country has made significant strides in the fight against COVID-19 since the first case was reported exactly one year ago.

And Dr Chanda has announced that the country has recorded 387 new COVID-19 cases out of 6,381 tests conducted and five deaths in the last 24 hours.

Speaking during a COVID-19 update, Thursday, Dr Chanda said the country had increased its diagnostic capacity, with laboratory infrastructure established in every province over the past year.

“Over the past year, we have increased our diagnostic capacity throughout the county, with testing capacity and laboratory infrastructure established in every province. The domestication of our testing algorithm has ensured the sustained provision of testing facilities throughout the pandemic. In addition, our response has relied heavily on risk communication and community engagement through which we have been able to reach congregate settings such as markets, bus stations, schools and churches, that have been linked to super spread of COVID-19,” Dr Chanda said.

He thanked health workers for their sacrifices and hard work over the past year.

“Today marks the one-year anniversary since the first two cases of COVID-19 were reported in Zambia. Indeed, it has been a long-fought battle and we wish to wholeheartedly commend the health workers on all fronts of the response. We have placed incredible expectations on them and they have risen to the occasion, in most instances above and beyond the call of duty, sacrificing their weekends and holidays in some instances in order to serve on the frontlines. Their tireless and selfless dedication to duty has paid off tremendously as witnessed by the many lives saved and the gains made in the epidemiology of the pandemic,” he said.

On the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Chanda said the consultation process had been concluded.

“The COVID-19 vaccine issue like I announced last week when I was in Kitwe, government has already agreed, its not a question of if but when. But if I want to say on the vaccine issue, Zambians should not lose hope, I am actually just from engaging private partners a few minutes before coming here on the COVID-19 vaccine issue…the good news is that we have reached a conclusion of all consultations, all government ministries have written in their opinions on the COVID-19 vaccine and we are very grateful. I think those opinions, if not all, will be very positive and supportive. So that is the way government works. So the COVID-19 vaccine issue is not just about Ministry of Health, its about the whole government so that when we provide guidance to the country, there is already a buy-in. and Cabinet meeting will be called imminently, it may be tomorrow, it may be on Monday but its very imminent and this is a very topical issue and I can assure you and through you the media, the nation that the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine, we have made a lot of progress on it,” Dr Chanda said.

And Dr Chanda said the Ministry hadn’t gone mute over expired drugs as work was being done in the background.

“On the report on expired drugs, we haven’t gone mute, the way government works is that when you identify a problem, you have to address it in the appropriate channels. So it was enough to know that we have identified the drugs because if we wanted to hide anything, why go to medical stores or ZAMMSA to look at expired drugs. So those drugs and the reports we have them, we are taking them through the appropriate measures but definitely action will be taken. We have no interest in shielding anyone who may have been involved in anything,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda announced that the country had recorded a six percent positivity rate in the last 24 hours, with Lusaka topping the list at 88 cases.

“Countrymen and women, allow me now to share the COVID-19 situation update for the last 24 hours: We recorded 387 new cases out of 6,381 tests conducted (6 percent positivity). This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 85,889. The new cases broken down by province were reported as follows: 88 Lusaka, 77 Copperbelt, 52 Luapula, 50 Central, 46 Eastern, 21 North-western, 34 Southern, 12 Northern, 4 Muchinga, and 3 Western. Five new deaths were reported from the following provinces: North-western (two), Copperbelt (one), Eastern (one) and Muchinga (one). The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date now stands at 1,175. The deaths are classified as 645 COVID deaths and 530 COVID-19 associated deaths,” said Dr Chanda.

“A combined 70 discharges were recorded from both the COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 82,527 (96%). We currently have 2,187 active cases, of whom 2,062 (94%) are under community management and 125 (6%) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those admitted, 85 (68%) are on Oxygen therapy and 25 (20%) are in critical condition.”