HEALTH Minister Sylvia Masebo says 300 health workers have succumbed to COVID-19 in Zambia since the pandemic began.

At a press briefing, Monday, Masebo said globally, between 80,000 to 180,000 health workers had been lost.

“The pandemic has resulted in many infections and deaths among health care workers and their households. It is estimated that globally, the world has lost between 80,000 to 180,000 health workers. Here in Zambia, we have lost more than 300 health workers from COVID-19. There are several multidimensional factors related to COVID-19 that affect health care workers. There has been a shortage of adequate and skilled workforce resulting in short term hire of the unemployed. There have been challenges with surge capacities when infections have risen so much to levels where our hospitals reach capacity,” she said.

“This has in turn led to increased stress, burn out, high infections and deaths and other mental health disorders. This is compounded with quarantine and self-isolation for those in the frontline when they get exposed. Health care workers sometimes have not been protected enough due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). They have sometimes been subjected to lacking incentives and insurance and even the much needed psychosocial support. We therefore acknowledge the achievements and contributions of these workers despite the mental, physical, social and economic burden that has affected them.”

Masebo said the second nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign had been slated for May 14, 2022.

“In the just ended week, we recorded 456 new cases, with 42 new admissions. This marks a 40% reduction in cases but a 68% increase in admissions compared to the previous week’s figures of 762 cases and 25 admissions. On an encouraging note, we did not record any new COVID-related deaths this past week. In addition, our overall national positivity rate reduced from 5% to 3%. We start this new week having recorded only 22 new cases in the last 24 hours out of 1,004 tests conducted countrywide. Notably, Eastern and Luapula provinces did not record any new cases from the tests they conducted. The overall national positivity today is at 2%,” Masebo said.

“We have 513 active cases, with 35 currently admitted to healthcare facilities across the country. Of the hospitalised, five are on oxygen therapy, and none are in critical condition. We will be providing an opportunity for those not yet vaccinated to get access during this coming nationwide campaign. However, I must mention that the launch has been rescheduled to start on 14th May, 2022. This is to allow adequate social mobilisation as our multisectoral teams including the health and local authorities engage our communities. Our target is to have 70% of our eligible population vaccinated by the end of June 2022.”

Meanwhile, at another press briefing, Wednesday, Masebo said all eligible children would be vaccinated in schools, unless parents communicated otherwise.

“As we are drawing close to schools opening, we have to urge our parents to ensure that their eligible children get vaccinated before they return to school. If your child will go to school without being vaccinated, as government we will be going round schools and we will be carrying our vaccinations. What that means is that those parents who will not have managed to get their children vaccinated, we would expect those parents to ensure that as they send their child back to school, they also inform the school on whether their child will get vaccinated or not. If they keep quiet, we will assume that they have accepted that we vaccinate their child. So there are two options here. Better you as a parent take your child to get vaccinated before they return to school. If your child goes to school without being vaccinated and you want us at the school to vaccinate the child, give that consent. Keeping silent will mean that you have accepted. So please if you are saying no make sure you inform the school,” said Masebo.