MINISTER of Health Dr Jonas Chanda has warned citizens to be on guard during the long weekend by ensuring they adhere to COVID-19 guidelines as they attend social gatherings to avoid infection.

And Dr Chanda announced that the country has recorded 131 new COVID-19 cases out of 5,487 tests conducted and four deaths in the last 24 hours.

Speaking during a COVID-19 update, Thursday, Dr Chanda urged citizens to ensure they adhere to the laid down COVID-19 guidelines.

“As we head into this long Easter weekend, we anticipate a number of social gatherings. We wish to remind our people that these congregate settings are a conduit for super spread of COVID-19, as many people attend these events with poor adherence to the public health guidance. Despite the reduction in our case positivity, I wish to remind us all that the risk of infection remains high, particularly in congregate settings. Therefore, I wish to earnestly appeal to each and every Zambian to be on guard this long weekend. Do not give-in to laxity. Be a brother’s and a sister’s keeper by ensuring adherence to the simple yet effective five golden rules, be it as an individual, family, business owner, religious leader or host of a congregate setting,” he said.

He said government was engaging several stakeholders in ensuring the successful rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As Zambia prepares to roll-out the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, our teams remain hard at work to ensure that all the systems, particularly the pharmacovigilance monitoring, are well established for successful implementation of the programme. We are continually engaging several key stakeholders including our Cooperating Partners, the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) and the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) in this regard. Additionally, we continue to closely follow reports from around the globe with respect to new developments around the Covid-19 vaccines roll-out, and we wish to assure the Zambian people that our decisions around the choice of vaccines in our basket will be informed by the available scientific evidence on safety and efficacy,” Dr Chanda said.

“Our Task Force for Immunisation also continues to monitor other country experiences in order to guide our decisions on the type of vaccines and targeted populations. A meeting is scheduled for today to critically analyse the global data on COVID-19 vaccines and outcomes in countries that are implementing the Covid-19 vaccination programme. We remain cognizant of the fact that this COVID-19 vaccination programme is unique in that, unlike other vaccination programmes in the country which target children, we will be vaccinating the adult population. We recognise the importance of adequately addressing the many myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories around the vaccines and so will ensure to continuously provide you all with correct, science based information to guide your decision on whether to participate in this cautious, voluntary, phased and piloted vaccination programme.”

And the Minister noted that Lusaka recorded the highest number of positive cases in the last 24 hours.

“We recorded 131 new cases out of 5,487 tests conducted (two percent positivity). This brings the cumulative number of confirmed cases recorded to date to 88,549. The new cases broken down by province are as follows: 53 Lusaka, 28 North-western, 14 Copperbelt, 11 Luapula, 10 Eastern, seven Northern, five Southern, two Western, and one Muchinga. North-western province had the highest positivity at seven percent, followed by Eastern at six percent while Western (0.4 percent) and Southern (one percent) had the lowest positivity. We continue to rely on our risk communication and surveillance teams as well as the various response structures at community level to ensure that we reduce the positivity to below the recommended five percent across all the provinces so as to gain some assurance that we have reduced community transmission,” said Dr Chanda.

“On a sad note, we recorded 4 new deaths from Lusaka (2), Copperbelt (1), and Muchinga (1) provinces. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded now stands at 1,212, classified as 676 COVID deaths and 536 COVID-19 associated deaths. A combined 106 discharges were recorded from both the COVID-19 isolation facilities and home management, bringing the cumulative number of recoveries to 84,698 (96 percent). We currently have 2,639 active cases, of whom 2,545 (96 percent) are under community management and 94 (four percent) are admitted to our COVID-19 isolation facilities. Among those admitted, 70 (75 percent) are on Oxygen therapy and 11 (12 percent) are in critical condition.”