MINISTER of Health Sylvia Masebo has announced that government has adjusted public health and social measures following a COVID-19 risk assessment which revealed a low transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2.

Speaking during a press briefing, Friday, Masebo said all learning institutions and places of work should resume normal schedules while public gatherings or events would now be permitted to operate normally, but maintaining masking up and practicing hand hygiene.

“The COVID-19 outbreak situation in the country is encouraging as we note that the fourth wave is subsiding. The number of cases being reported daily have reduced significantly with the SARS-CoV-2 national average test positivity rate of less than 5% for over 3 weeks. We also observe a reduced number of persons with COVID-19 being hospitalized or succumbing to death due to the disease. We still remain cognisant of the continued threat as SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to be transmitted in many parts of the world including within Zambia. We are thus cautious of the approaches we use to determine how we de-escalate some COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures. Following a COVID-19 risk assessment which revealed a low transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2, we have adjusted the following Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM) with immediate effect,” she said.

“There will be no restrictions on population movement and travel and business operations; Furthermore, persons travelling to Zambia will no longer need to have a PCR test. However, one must be fully vaccinated to forgo the test. Those not fully vaccinated must provide evidence of SAR-CoV-2 negative by PCR test. • All learning institutions and places of work shall resume normal schedule. • Public gatherings or events including but not limited to, weddings, parties, family gatherings, sports, music concerts, festivals, performances, parades, exhibitions, funerals, burials, religious gatherings and others shall now be permitted to operate normally but maintain masking up and practice hand hygiene. • We expect managers of all public places and events to abide and enforce these measures responsibly. Going forward, there will be no need to seek authority from the Ministry of Health or ZNPHI for inspections of premise to host public events. Please note that this may be revoked if we see that our public health security is threatened. • Meanwhile, all unvaccinated eligible individuals (12 years and above) are encouraged to be get vaccinated at their nearest health facilities; and those who are fully vaccinated to get booster doses accordingly.”

And Masebo said government had continued to institute heightened surveillance for Polio.

“Zambia recently launched an Oral Polio Vaccine campaign in Eastern, Lusaka and Muchinga provinces targeting children aged 5 years and below. I am pleased to note the successful round 1 of vaccinations with all provinces registering over 98% coverage. It is heart-warming to see parents ensure their children get protected against the deadly and contagious polio virus. We will be conducting a second round covering the whole country shortly. I call upon all of you to ensure your children get the Oral Polio Vaccine. This will OPV ensure that the children are protected, and we reduce any chance of importing polio into our country. It is my hope that the parents have also gotten themselves protected from the devastating COVID-19 through vaccination. Remember to be an effective parent or caregiver, you yourself must be in good health,” she said.

“I am happy to report that we have continued to institute heightened surveillance for Polio and all children presenting with sudden onset of paralysis are examined for polio. So far, all samples tested from the suspects have confirmed that it is NOT polio. We will keep vigilant and continue with all measures to keep our country safe.”

Meanwhile, Masebo emphasised that while government had lifted many restrictions, there was need to continue adhering to the ‘five’ golden rules.

“In the last 24 hours, we recorded 91 new COVID-19 cases out of 2,498 tests conducted countrywide, giving an overall national positivity of 4%. Notably, Muchinga province did not record any new positive cases in the last 24 hours. Our national positivity has been below 5% for over two weeks now indicating that community transmission is low; we must all protect this status quo by ensuring we continue to adhere to the public health and safety measures. We had 6 new admissions, which is slightly more admissions than we have seen in the past couple of weeks. On the other hand, we discharged a total of 113 patients from both home and facility management, leaving 726 active cases nationwide. Of the current active cases nationwide, only 14 (2%) require hospitalisation, and these are spread across five provinces only, namely North-western (4), Eastern (3), Lusaka (3), Copperbelt (2) and Southern (2). Of these, 5 (36%) are on oxygen therapy and for the eighth consecutive day we report that none of our admitted patients are classified as critically ill. In similarly encouraging news, we have not reported any new deaths in the past seven days,” said Masebo.

“Our COVID-19 vaccination campaign undoubtedly continues to play a key role in keeping our COVID-19 numbers low. We administered close to 17,000 doses in the last 24hours, including booster vaccinations and vaccines to children. This brings the cumulative number of vaccinated eligible persons to date to 1,238,650 for dose 1 and 2,207,102 fully vaccinated. A further 67,024 persons have received booster doses so far. To date, 199,178 children aged 12-17 years have received their first dose and 22,519 have received the second dose vaccinations. I wish to emphasise that while we have lifted many restrictions, there is need to continue adhering to the ‘five’ golden rules. We remain at risk of an upsurge for as long as the SARS-CoV-2 is still being transmitted globally.”