MINISTER of Health Sylvia Masebo says the national COVID-19 vaccination rate is now at 53 per cent.

Speaking during a COVID-19 briefing, Monday, Masebo said health care announcements should be taken seriously.

She also announced that the mask wearing requirement had been lifted in two more districts; Mitete District in Western Province and Chipili District in Luapula Province.

“With August almost over and only three months to the end of the year, we will soon mark three years of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also exactly a year since we had the most severe of the four COVID-19 waves that our country has experienced thus far, that is, between May and September, 2021. It is indeed gratifying to note that this year, we have been spared from a marked resurgence in cases. Although we have made tremendous gains with our vaccination programme, we still have much to achieve. Our national coverage is at 53% against our target of 70%; while at provincial level, only two provinces (Central and Copperbelt), have achieved the target. Further, 24 districts spread across Central, Copperbelt, Luapula, Lusaka, Northwestern and Western provinces have now attained 70% coverage of fully immunized eligible population,” she said.

“The latest two inclusions to the list are Mitete District in Western Province, and Chipili District in Luapula Province. We appreciate the efforts made by these communities and the health workers. Today, the two districts join the districts where exemption of wearing of face masks is no longer mandatory. I also want to mention that wearing face masks has its own advantages. These include infection prevention, as we have seen in the case of COVID-19, as well as other respiratory tract infections. It also keeps off dust and smoke that is harmful to our health.”

And Masebo urged those in districts with eased restrictions to still wear masks in crowded places.

“And so I want to say that even for the districts where we have said wearing masks is optional I would advise that where you are exposed it is best that you wear masks. When you see that you are in the midst of overcrowded places indoors, for example those traveling on a bus or a plane it is best that you mask up, it’s very important because you are rather exposing yourself. Even as we see that the cases are coming down, the deaths we are recording zero and so on and so forth, as government we are on the 1st to the 7th of September coming up with the national vaccination drive for Covid, this is not at district level only but going down to the sub district structures and that is at constituency level and we have called upon members of parliament to partner with the district health directors, to partner with the local councils to ensure that this last drive for this year gets moreover people vaccinated,” she said.

“There so many new diseases that are coming up and you have seen and heard what is happening in some of our neighboring countries and Zambia is situated in, when it comes to issues of disease in a place that easily can get affected by those around us. So if there is a problem in Malawi it’s bound to be a problem in Zambia, if there is a problem in South Africa or Zimbabwe or Mozambique even Congo where we continuously sometimes get negative statements in terms of outbreaks so, it’s important that Zambia being a land linked country that we take all those announcements of diseases happening in the surrounding countries seriously and take them as if they are in Zambia. Remember there is a lot of cross border trade and families that are closer.”

She said government was anxious to achieve herd immunity.

“We are cognizant that the number of vaccines being administered has dropped after the conclusion of our last vaccination campaign, and we are anxious to elevate the numbers once more to remain on track to achieve herd immunity. In this regard, we will be running another public vaccination campaign from 1st to 7th September, 2022. This will be launched by the local area Members of Parliament in all the 150 constituencies. We encourage all those yet to get vaccinated, for one reason or the other, to seek out the services of our risk communications and vaccination teams, who will be able to address any lingering concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, as well as administer the vaccines in convenient locations within the community,” she said.

“Let me make it clear that this will be the last time, this year 2022, we are conducting such heightened activities. I therefore, call upon all members of the public who are yet to get the vaccine, to take advantage of this, and get vaccinated in an area that is of their convenience. After the 7th, vaccines will only be accessible in health facilities as part of our routine services. We continue to review the performance of the COVID-19 indicators to track the progression of the pandemic on the local front. For six consecutive weeks, we have continued to see a drop in the number of new cases recorded weekly. This past week, 312 cases were reported with 12 cases requiring admission, compared to 442 cases and 13 admissions in the previous week. Also encouraging to note is that we have maintained our zero COVID-related death streak for three consecutive weeks. Our overall national positivity rate for the week dropped from 4% to 3%, a good indicator that community transmission is low in the areas we are testing.”

She said in the last 24 hours, the ministry recorded 10 new cases out of 782 tests performed.

“In the last 24 hours, we recorded 10 new cases, out of 782 tests performed, giving a national positivity rate of 1%. The breakdown of cases is as follows: Central (1); Copperbelt (2); Eastern (1); Luapula (2); Lusaka (0); Muchinga (0); North-western (4); Southern (0) and Western (0). Unfortunately, the Northern province did not conduct any tests in the last 24 hours. However, I must note that they have also consistently had very few cases reported. For instance, in the past week they had zero cases reported on four consecutive days,” said Masebo.

“Of the new cases, two required admissions to a COVID-19 facility. On the other hand, we discharged 68 patients, specifically 67 were from home-based management and one was a facility discharge. We did not record any new deaths in the last 24 hours. The number of active cases country-wide has continued to drop even further. Currently there are 394 active cases currently countrywide, of whom 12 (3%) are currently admitted with eight on oxygen and one classified as being in critical condition.”