MINISTER of Health Sylvia Masebo says eight new cases of COVID-19 Omicron variant have been detected, bringing the cumulative number to 11.

Giving an update on the COVID-19 situation, Saturday, Masebo disclosed that the eight cases were all from Lusaka District.

She further stated that the first three individuals in whom the COVID-19 Omicron variant was detected had now recovered and tested negative to SARS-CoV-2.

“From my last update, I wish to inform you that we have detected the COVID-19 Omicron variant in an additional eight persons all from Lusaka District, cumulating to 11 so far. You will recall that the first time we announced this, we had three and this time around we have eight. International travel remains the common risk factor with five of the eight having a history of recent international travel. The age range among the eight is 18 to 76 years, five being male. Five of the eight are vaccinated against COVID-19,” Masebo said.

“Looking at the seriousness of disease, we are inclined to think the vaccination has offered protection from severe disease. All the patients have a combination of common symptoms including headache, fever, cough, cold, general body pains. One also experienced abdominal pains. On a positive note, the first three individuals in whom the COVID-19 Omicron variant was detected have recovered and now tested negative to SARS-CoV-2.”

The health minister also revealed that a nine-year-old female died in the last 24 hours and her death had been classified as a COVID-19 associated death.

“On a sad note, we recorded one new death in the last 24 hours, which has been classified as a COVID-19 associated death. The patient was a nine-year-old female on day 4 post admission. She was asymptomatic for COVID-19; however, she had severe malnutrition. The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date now stands at 3,669 (classified as 2,744 COVID-19 deaths and 925 COVID-19 associated deaths). We currently have 684 active cases (up from 510 reported yesterday),” she said.

Masebo expressed concern over the increase in daily COVID-19 cases, noting that 235 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours.

“On reviewing our current status , it is undeniable that we are well on our way to the fourth wave. We can already see isolated incidents of increasing positivity in some provinces, with increases from 0.1% in previous weeks to now at 4%. It is no surprise as we anticipated this, considering that several countries globally are already experiencing a fourth wave. We are concerned over the increase noted in daily new cases. In the last 24 hours, we recorded 235 new COVID-19 cases out of the 5,446 tests conducted countrywide, (4% overall national positivity). In just three days, our new cases numbers have increased by over 200% and our positivity has gone up by 3 percentage points.” she said.

“Sadly, we are also beginning to see an increase in both new and total admissions, including in the private facilities. This week alone, we have already seen 19 new admissions since Monday, 4 times more than we have seen in over three months. This is a clear indication that community transmission is occurring at an alarming rate. We are also seeing an increase in the number of patients on oxygen therapy. Encouragingly, of the 21 patients currently admitted, only one patient is in critical condition. The notable increase in the number of cases in Central, Copperbelt, Luapula, Lusaka, North-western and Southern provinces is worrying and points to the likelihood of a fourth wave. The cumulative number of COVID-19 confirmed cases recorded to date now stands at 210,959. ”

Meanwhile, Masebo said over 1 million COVID-19 vaccines had been administered cumulatively.

“In the last 24 hours, we administered the following doses under the vaccination programme: Pfizer – 31 Dose 1, Sinopharm – 635 Dose 1 and 131 Dose 2, AstraZeneca – 3,170 Dose 1 and 508 Dose 2, Johnson and Johnson – 15,552 doses. This brings the cumulative number of total doses that have been administered to date to 1,242,193. These are broken down by dose type as follows: 420,657 Dose 1 vaccinations and 821,536 fully vaccinated (of which 605,581 (74%) are the single dose J&J vaccinations),” said Masebo.