PHARMACIST Jerome Kanyika says he now understands why a lot of health workers tested positive for COVID-19 because they were using substandard face masks supplied by non-medical suppliers.

Former Permanent Secretary for Administration Kakulubelwa Mulalelo recently justified granting Higer Bus Zambia Limited a K126 million contract to supply face masks, arguing that even though face masks are medical supplies, anyone dealing in trading of goods could deliver them.

But in an interview, Kanyika said any company that intends to supply medical supplies such as masks needed to have a pharmaceutical license.

“The former PS misguided herself in the way it is supposed to be done. What the current PS mentioned is the right way to do things. When something is medically related, it is supposed to be supplied by a company that has all the requirements. When you want to supply anything medical related, you are required to have a pharmaceutical license. In this situation, masks are medical requirements and you are supposed to have that. They are also certified by ZAMRA. So there was nothing to justify. I was actually very shocked that they justified that anyone can supply masks because that is not what the law stipulates,” Kanyika said.

“No wonder we saw a lot of wrong things happening in the previous administration because of doing the wrong things while the law clearly stipulates what is supposed to be done. So the former PS misguided us. I heard the former procurement officer justifying that there was an emergency. But whether there is an emergency or no emergency, the law needs to be followed. The fact that there is an emergency does not justify you not following the law. You just need to quicken the process so that you are not found limping at any point.”

Kanyika argued that a lot of health workers may have tested positive for COVID-19 during that period because of using the wrong masks.

“If we say there was an emergency and you do not follow the law, then there is no need for us having the law. No wonder today people have been summoned by the ACC because of failure to follow the laws that have been put in place. That money belongs to the people of Zambia and those in offices need to be accountable. You need to stick to the type of medical supplies required which should be of high quality,” said Kanyika.

“Instead of them bringing the N-95 masks, they brought the KN-95. The KN-95 in a covid situation, we do not know how far they can protect an individual. In that situation, they brought in the substandard masks. On the other hand, the N-95 masks are scientifically proven to be 95% protecting from bacteria. No wonder we had a lot of health workers testing positive during that period because they were using the wrong masks. And we spent more money as a country in buying substandard products instead of buying the correct products. There is need to really restore sanity at the Ministry of Health.”