FORMER Health Minister Dr Brian Chituwo says there is no need for the government to take any more drastic measures in view of the Omicron variant that has been detected in the country.

On Sunday Health Minister Sylvia Masebo said three SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variants had been detected in Zambia from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last one week.

Asked in an interview if there was need for government to lock down the country, Dr Chituwo said the measures that government had put in place to contain the COVID-19 spread were also sufficient to accommodate the Omicron variant.

“There is no need to take any more drastic measures. What has been done is enough and let us continue to learn and observe the interaction between the virus and us in Zambia. So far the measures have been good otherwise we would not have this situation. The whole world is still learning about Covid. Scientists have told us and we know viruses always mutate, meaning we shall continue to have various variants. This Omicron is not in any major way different from the COVID-19,” said Dr Chituwo.

“So, for our government, the measures that have been put in [place] to contain COVID-19 spread, in my view, are sufficient to even accommodate Omicron. It is good that the government has considered to balance between health and the economy. In my view, Omicron does not add or alter anything that requires extra measures by government. And when you look at our statistics, Zambia is one of those safe countries where people can visit. 90 percent of our patients recover. And in the past three months or so when you look at the statistics, I think our creator God has been very kind to us. “

During a briefing, Masebo said it was not yet clear whether Omicron would easily spread from one person to another.

“It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more easily spread from person to person compared to other variants. The severity of disease following infection with the Omicron variant is yet to be understood. There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those associated with other variants. However, preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited,” Masebo said.

“On a positive note, the current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death. While further studies are underway to understand the potential impact of this variant on existing counter measures, it is clear that vaccines continue to play a critical role in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. The Omicron has been reported in many countries especially in the Southern Africa region leading to restriction and travel bans to many countries in Europe and the Americas. I wish to announce that the National Heart Hospital will be our main COVID-19 Isolation Center. However, other designated facilities will continue to manage patients in their jurisdiction.”

Among measures that have been put by government are that port health officers will observe all arriving passengers to detect those with obvious signs of illness and subject them to further evaluations including tests if indicated. All travelers entering Zambia will be required to provide evidence of negative Sars Cov2 polymerase reaction (PCR) test for a sample collected within 72 hours.