MINISTER of Health Sylvia Masebo says Covid-19 has been a triggering factor to people experiencing mental illness worldwide.

Speaking during Covid-19 briefing, Masebo said there had been a reduction in the number of Covid-19 cases and related deaths over the last few weeks.

“We see a reduced incidence of COVID-19 and related deaths over the last few days and weeks. However, we remain conscious of the fact that the pandemic is ongoing. As the pandemic has continued, we have noted that COVID-19 has had a direct consequence on the mental wellbeing of many people globally including in Zambia. Individuals who have suffered from mental ill health include health care providers, people who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19 and people who have survived COVID-19. Many who have recovered from COVID-19 are still experiencing some symptoms even after the recovery from the acute phase of COVID-19 disease. This is also referred to as ‘long COVID’ which is overwhelming to bear. Due to the many social and economic changes that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed communities to, mental ill health is one of the greatest challenges facing us today” she said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions imposed on our daily lives has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on our population’s mental health. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people in our communities are struggling with mental ill health, which is affecting their life choices and outcomes. We have seen an increase in substance and alcohol abuse cases across the country. Sadly, we also observe a concerning number of suicide cases and self-harm cases reported in media, healthcare facilities and police stations. Zambia has in the recent past witnessed an increasing number of suicide cases or suicide attempts reported in media mainly among the young adults. The rate of suicide alarming articles and posts have overwhelmed social media. These have further exposed people to stressful situations and worry.”

And Masebo said it was disheartening that the Ministry of Health continued to record deaths mostly in the elderly who were not vaccinated.

“In the last 24 hours, we recorded 219 new COVID-19 cases out of 4,166 tests conducted countrywide, giving an overall national positivity of 5%. We had 6 new admissions and we discharged a total of 301 patients from both home management and facility, leaving 1,687 active cases nationwide. Of the current active cases, 21 (1%) are admitted to hospital with 7 (33%) of these on oxygen therapy. None of our current admissions are classified as critically ill. The proportion of unvaccinated patients among the admissions remains high at 86% of current admissions. We recorded one new death in the last 24 hours; an unvaccinated 76-year-old from Southern province. It is disheartening that we continue to see deaths mostly in our elderly who have not been vaccinated,” she said.

“We appeal to families to ensure that all eligible members of their household are vaccinated. We are grateful to all the parents who have also taken the decision to have their younger children 12-17 vaccinated. Since we announced the commencement of childhood and booster vaccinations late last year, we had a good response to the programme. As I come to the end of my press statement, I wish to re-emphasise the need to adhere to the five golden rules’ and getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to prevent and control the pandemic. Today I also add, let us take a minute and ask someone, ‘are you okay?’ Let us remember to get the booster dose and very importantly get our children 12 years and above vaccinated”.

She said she was impressed with the outcome of people getting vaccinated against Covid-19.

“It is pleasing to observe the increasing number of persons getting vaccinated against COVID-19. In the last 24 hours, we recorded an impressive 34,598 vaccinations, including our highest number of booster vaccinations to date of 3,557. To date, over 100,000 children aged 12-17 have received their first dose and we have administered over 3,000 dose 2 vaccinations,” said Masebo.