HEALTH Minister Dr Jonas Chanda says there is currently no evidence of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant in the country.

And Dr Chanda has assured people who received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that they will receive the second one soon.

According to BBC report, Uganda, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa have had confirmed traces of new COVID-19 variants.

But speaking in Parliament, Wednesday, Dr Chanda assured the nation that there was currently no evidence of the deadly Indian variant in Zambia.

“Currently there is no evidence of the deadly Indian Variant in Zambia. So far with genomic sequencing that we have done, we haven’t found any evidence of the Indian variant. I know there is a lot of social media speculations. What I would advise the Zambian people is that let us have trust in the health authorities. We are going to do public health security for everyone whether you came from India or Pakistan. You can be in India today, you fly to Tokyo, you are in New York then you come to Lusaka. So, that is why most of these measures have to be generic rather than targeted at a particular country. If you have evidence that you have come from a high-risk country like India, we have to test you again, irrespective of your PCR tests results because we have to be very sure. If you test positive, we still collect the sample to test generic sequencing to know what variant you are carrying. The whole idea is to prevent that variant [from] getting through our community,” Dr Chanda said.

Dr Chanda also assured those who received the first dose of the vaccine that they would receive the second one.

“We got an initial 228,000 doses of the AstraZeneca and since everyone is supposed to get two doses, so if you divide it by two, it translates to 114,000. There is also a chance for what you call vaccine loss, a bottle can break, some can spill. We account for 10 percent loses. So basically, we are accounting for 100,000 or so. So, the uptake of the vaccine in Zambia has been very rapid, in less than a month we are almost approaching 100,000. So, in the next few days the country will be reaching 100,000. I want to assure everyone who has been vaccinated that everyone will get a second dose. When we reach a 100,000 mark by that time, a number of people who are vaccinated first including myself, I will be eligible for a second dose. So, we will make sure that everyone is fully covered, we don’t want to have a program where you are only getting one dose and then we leave you to chance. So, we have to manage with what we have,” he said.

And Dr Chanda said 5,058 people were vaccinated in the last 24 hours bringing the cumulative total to 90,916.

“Mr Speaker, I am elated to report a progressive COVID-19 vaccination campaign. In the last 24 hours, we vaccinated 5,058 persons with the AstraZeneca-vaccine bringing total of all vaccinated against COVID-19 to 90,916. Of the total vaccinated, about a quarter represents healthcare workers. We are happy to note that although a number of people have reported side effects to the vaccine, we do not have any critical Adverse Events Following immunisation (AEFI). All events reported so far have been resolved,” he said.

“We will soon be campaigning heavily for the August 2021 national elections. A number of countries have held their elections during the COVID-19 pandemic and we have been observing closely the outcomes and lessons learnt. A technical committee led by the Electoral Commission of Zambia was established to set up guidelines and support the safety of members of the public from COVID-19 and other events. Ministry of Health Headquarters and the Zambia National Public Health Institute have been providing technical guidance to ensure we strategise to avert an upsurge due to poor compliance to prevention and control measures. The team has developed guidelines and engaged the political party representatives and other stakeholders for their by-in. Successful meetings have been held with all political parties pledging support and adherence to the public health guidelines as the country heads to the polls in August.”

Meanwhile, Dr Chanda said the country has recorded 59 new confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 4,800 cases tests conducted.

“In the last 24 hours, Zambia reports 59 new confirmed COVID-19 cases out of 4,800 tests conducted in the last 24 hours representing. The breakdown of the new cases by province is as follows: Central 17, Copperbelt two, Eastern six, Luapula, Lusaka 15, Muchinga Zero, Northern five, North-western two, Southern two, and Western four. We continue to record cases in some remote districts which is cause for concern as it indicates continued community transmission. By district, the 59 new cases were reported from 24 districts, namely Kabwe (14), Lusaka eight, Kafue four, Chienge three, Nchelenge three, Chilanga, Itezhi-Tezhi, Kalomo, Kasama, Lusangazi, Mungwi, Mwandi, and Sinda two, Chibombo, Chipangali, Chongwe, Kasempa, Kitwe, Luwingu, Mufulira, Nyimba, Shangombo, Sikongo, and Solwezi one,” he said.

“Currently, there are 36 patients admitted to our isolation facilities countrywide following two new admissions in the last 24 hours. 31 are on Oxygen therapy of whom nine are in critical condition. All patients in isolation have no history of COVID-19 vaccination. Sadly, we recorded one new death in the last 24 hours, from the Levy Mwanawasa Hospital in Lusaka and classified as a COVID associated death. We discharged yesterday; 35 patients among the hospitalized and those under home management for COVID-19 management. As of 12th May 2021, Zambia had recorded a cumulative 92,211 out of 1,452,413 tests conducted, 1,259 deaths and 90,574 recoveries. The outbreak affected all districts in the country with Lusaka contributing the largest number of cases followed by the Copperbelt.