HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says $22 million has been made available, through the Global Fund, for fast track procurement of response commodities, diagnostic kits and oxygen kits, among others.

And Dr Chanda says the country has recorded 187 new COVID-19 cases out of 6,356 tests conducted in the last 24 hours.

Giving an update on ZNBC, Dr Chanda said the country had continued seeing a reduction in the number of case admissions in COVID-19 isolation facilities.

“We continue to see an encouraging trend in the reduction in the number of case admissions to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Today, we are only seeing 92 in-patients from the highs of over 510 a day at the peak of the second wave in January 2021. Our test positivity has been below five percent for almost two weeks. According to the World Health Organisation recommendation, a test positivity below five percent is a good indicator that community transmission of Coronavirus is being brought under control. However, this is not to say that we must let down our guard. On the contrary, now more than ever, with the imminent threat of a third wave upon us with the onset of the cold season soon, we must do all we can to sustain our efforts, particularly our community interventions to ensure that we avert a worst case scenario if a third wave hits. A number of countries in Europe and East Africa are already experiencing a third wave,” Dr Chanda said.

“It is equally important that our front line health workforce remains adequately equipped to sustain the response. In this regard, $22,000,000 has been made available through the Global Fund for the fast track procurement of response commodities, including diagnostic kits, personal protective equipment, oxygen kits and medical supplies. And as earlier announced, government with support from UNICEF and cooperating partners will be establishing a $1 million oxygen plant here on the Copperbelt Province to be located at Kitwe Teaching Hospital.”

Dr Chanda said government had scheduled a number of bilateral meetings with private and non-state actors to explore other options for vaccine acquisition and deployment.

“As we continue to make headway with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the Zambian government under the able leadership of His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu through the Ministry of Health has scheduled a number of bilateral meetings with private and non-state actors to explore other options for vaccine acquisition and deployment to contribute to our vaccine basket which will comprise only those vaccines which meet the safety and efficacy criteria, and is also logistically feasible in terms of the cold Chain. We will continue to keep the nation updated on the progress made with regard to the vaccination programme in terms of acquisition and deployment of the vaccines,” Dr Chanda said.

“Additionally, we will continue to engage with the media which is the fourth estate in a democracy as well as other community structures in order to demystify the COVID-19 vaccines and address the many discredited myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories. This afternoon, the Ministry of Health will host a virtual engagement meeting with the media to discuss the COVID-19 vaccination programme. As we continue to monitor the trends in other countries that are implementing the vaccination programme such as the UK, USA and Israel and others closer to home such as Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, we are paying particular attention to the vaccination coverage attained as well as the impact on the epidemiology and evolution of the pandemic and following up if at all there is any adverse event, though they have been none so far.”

He added that Regional Collaborating Centre (RCC) would be officially launched today by Vice-President Inonge Wina at Mulungushi Conference Centre.”

“Zambia is privileged to be the host country for the Southern Africa Regional Collaborating Centre (RCC) of the Africa CDC. The Southern Africa RCC has been instrumental in supporting countries in capacity building for public health security and strengthening disease surveillance and evidence based emergency response. The RCC will be officially launched tomorrow 31st March 2021, by Her Honour the Vice President, Mrs Inonge Mutukwa Wina, MP under the theme ‘Ensuring effective preparedness and response to current public health threats in the context of COVID-19 and beyond’ at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre. Other noted dignitaries will be in attendance will include the Africa CDC Director, Dr. John Nkengasong, Dr Moussa Mahamat Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Her Excellency Amira El Fadil Acting Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, African Union Commission. The launch will also be broadcast virtually in line with the COVID-19 public health guidelines and to ensure as many people are able to attend this auspicious occasion,” he said.

And Dr Chanda said the country had recorded 187 new cases out of 6,356 tests conducted with two new deaths.

“Countrymen and women, the COVID-19 situation update for the last 24 hours is as follows: We recorded 187 new cases out of 6,356 tests conducted (three percent positivity). This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 88,199. The new cases broken down by province are as follows: 42 Lusaka, 32 Muchinga, 23 Copperbelt, 18 Luapula, 17 Southern, 14 Western, 13 North-western, 12 Eastern, 11 Northern, and five Central. The province with the highest positivity rate was Muchinga (11 percent) while Lusaka and Southern had the lowest positivity (two percent),” said Dr Chanda.

“There were two new deaths recorded from Muchinga province in the last 24 hours. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded remains at 1,202, classified as 669 COVID deaths and 533 COVID-19 associated deaths. A combined 55 discharges were recorded from both the COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 84,519 (96 percent). We currently have 2,478 active cases, of whom 2,386 (96 percent) are under community management and 92 ( four percent) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those admitted, 76 (83 percent) are on Oxygen therapy and 15 (16 percent) are in critical condition.”