OPERATION 100 Covid-19 Taskforce chairperson Inambao Sitwala says the Ministry of Health should incorporate all key stakeholders in the fight against COVID-19 in order for the pandemic to be completely eradicated.

In an interview, Sitwala said COVID-19 still remained a very big “thorn” in Zambia’s economy.

“Based on whatever is going on right now, COVID-19 still remains a very big thorn in our economy and it has the capacity to actually delay and derail the progress of the nation from attaining that which we really want to attain. And to make mention of this, because there is no way as a nation at this point where we have reached, we are not taking matters as we are supposed to take them, especially the Ministry of Health, the custodian of this matter. The Ministry of Health right now needs to incorporate all key stakeholders and I don’t believe, I don’t know whether the Ministry of Health is doing that,” he said.

“The aspect of key stakeholders is key because of the spreading of the disease. You talk of the RTSA people, the bus people, the vendors in the market, open markets. Talk of the police, in the cells, prisons, all those are super spreading areas including the churches. The government should just scale up the sensitisation in all areas. It seems people are getting fatigued, what we might call ‘COVID fatigued’ including the reinforcers themselves. COVID is claiming lives, people are dying, we are losing potential human resources every day and yet there is no seemingly corresponding seriousness towards how best these things can be fought. There is no time for relaxing.”

Sitwala argued that the pandemic was not a battle that could be won by one person.

“For me, if people are tired and fatigued, let me at least remain with people that can continue with the fight. As I have always said there are stakeholders in this fight and it’s not a fight or battle for one person, let people be engaged. There are people who are willing to do the same usual things the ministry has been doing. Talk of the issue to do with spraying the market, there are people who can just spray because government already has these chemicals and the people are there, all they need is a little supervision to go into the market spray maybe every three days,” he said.

“This disease needs the involvement of everyone for it to be eradicated completely. So if we were to minimise and limit our involvement it would be a bit tricky. Because it’s perpetual, it has proved that it’s actually ongoing and if we are not careful as a global [world] and as a nation, we will end up making this disease an annual disease, as a seasonal disease because we already have it now. We had no cases before but as the cold season approached, cases started increasing. So, it may be here to stay but efforts must be continuously done. Our cry both as biomedical union of Zambia and also as operation 100 task force, we are crying that let people be involved. There are some people with solutions that you may think they don’t have. So the involvement and openness of hands by the Ministry of Health really opens up doors for many solutions that would be helpful in solving this challenge.”

He insisted on the need for stakeholder involvement in the fight against the pandemic.

“Our call still remains, stakeholder involvement. COVID doesn’t move but people move, so there is a need to involve every ministry and everyone to stop spreading it and stop killing people. COVID moves in the same pattern of economic development, if you check cases are more in Lusaka and Copperbelt and also in Southern Province, because all these towns are along the line of rail and this is where it is highly boosted here in Zambia. So the aspect of being strict or being strict by the state is very imperative. As COVID-19 task force, we have the means and ways and strategies that can help resolve the issues of the spread of COVID-19 in the major cities. We call them the reformation,” said Sitwala.

“I will give an example of Lusaka, Lusaka is the most epicentre for these diseases because of the high population density. So in the case of COVID, we all know how COVID is spread and how COVID is transmitted from person to person, from town to town. As we know in the transport business that’s where we have a lot of culprits. So the best we do in this case, we know that Lusaka is being covered by four toll gates, the best that we can do is mount the aspect of sanitizing at all these points for the next 14 days we mount those, spray the bus, sanitize people, make them come out of the bus. It doesn’t take much to do all these things, we can have fun as we are handling COVID together.”