MINISTRY of Health Director of Infectious Diseases Professor Lloyd Mulenga says it’s not true that the ministry has neglected other medical conditions because of COVID-19.

In an interview, Prof Mulenga said COVID-19 was being overemphasised because of it had serious implications on other diseases.

“It’s not true that we are neglecting other conditions but there is a chance that we can over-emphasise one condition. This is why we do emphasise that we need to be opening up the routine health services so that we are not just focusing on Covid. Covid has had a lot of implications on other diseases. Because of Covid, we could not receive supplies to treat Malaria, supplies to treat HIV, supplies to treat TB. We could not get the first kits, we could not get equipment as well, because of Covid. Even the drugs themselves which are used to manufacture drugs for HIV, there are certain drugs we could not get because of Covid. Covid is different from all these other conditions that is why eliminating it as a public health threat means that we will be able to concentrate and pay good attention to these other public health [conditions],” he said.

Prof Mulenga said the Ministry of Health did not only update the nation on COVID-19 alone but on other health conditions too.

“First of all, our policy in the ministry even with Covid has been that we need to emphasise on, we need to have a country which is free of all diseases and all conditions, not just Covid. We have what is called maintaining routine essential health services and we have agenda items which are speaking to the fact that we need to maintain other health services which are routine and important even amidst Covid. When we talk of deaths; malaria, this has been the week when we had the Malaria World Day and that international Malaria world day which was celebrated for us in North-Western Province, Malaria was highlighted,” he said.

“During the press briefing again on Tuesday, malaria was highlighted by the minister as well. If you look at the way we have been updating Covid, it’s not just on its own. On Tuesday, it was Covid with malaria and also with Ebola. Last week on Friday, cholera was discussed highly, polio as well. We have been discussing non-communicable diseases, we have discussed HIV, we have discussed TB, we have discussed diabetes.”

Meanwhile, Prof Mulenga said the ministry did not just look at COVID-19 as a disease, but as a major public health threat which had implications, not just on an individual’s life, but on the economy.

“Now why Covid? It is because when someone has Covid and they have these other infections, then the chance of them dying from Covid or even other infections increases. If someone has TB, then they get Covid, the chances of them getting severe forms of Covid also increases, even getting the severe forms of TB increases. If someone has HIV if not controlled and they get Covid then the severe forms of the diseases on both sides are going to be high. So it’s because Covid affects almost everything, every disease, it affects the economy, it affects travel. And we don’t just look at it as a disease, we look at it as a major public health threat which has implications, not just on an individual’s life, it has huge implications on the economy, has huge implications on the household and also on individual life,” said Prof Mulenga.