IF there was ever a time to celebrate, it should be now. A disaster of a year has come to an end. The horrific year in which millions of lives across the world were lost has finally come to a close.

New Year is a great chance to reflect on the accomplishments, the highs and lows of the past year, and it also signals a fresh start. Take some time to reflect on 2020, about where you were at the beginning of the year and where you are now. Think about where you want to be at the end of 2021.

What a year 2020 had been with the COVID-19 pandemic! The public was left puzzled, even infuriated, over the constantly switching rules of behavior. A healthcare system overwhelmed, caring for an ever-growing case load. Donors pouring all they can to save lives, business shutting down and the economy hitting rock bottom!

Indeed, the dawn of 2021 calls for confetti, Champagne and booze for those who can afford it or even simple fireworks and thanksgiving prayers. However you choose to celebrate 2021, our message today is a call for safety – COVID-19 is far from over! In fact, it is only getting worse.

Don’t take our word for it, just look at the recent statistics and the warning from the health experts. The Ministry of Health says it has identified a new strain of COVID-19 in Zambia, which spreads faster. The Ministry adds that the number of cases had doubled.

“Today, we report that Zambia has characterised a new strain of the SARS-COV-2 which is the same as the one which was isolated in South Africa. This mutated virus was isolated in many of the cases detected in December 2020, spreads faster, it causes more infections. What the President feared two weeks ago would happen in relation to COVID-19 has now become a reality. We are seeing an increased number of cases, worrisome disease severity and an average of a death per day in the last two weeks and this signifies the beginning of the second wave. Today, we report that the second wave of SARS-COV-2 disease in Zambia is firmly established. This aligns to what our scientists and modelling teams determined a few months ago and like earlier indicated, the only way to stop this second wave in its infancy is strict adherence to prescribed public health measures,” said Dr Chilufya.

“Zambia in November 2020 recorded 1,200 cases of COVID-19 with eight deaths, but in December, these numbers have doubled. Already, we have recorded over 2,600 COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths. When we compare the numbers in the last seven days, again we see that these last seven, days we recorded 1,228 cases while the previous week, we recorded 618 cases. Again, this is further evidence that the number of cases have doubled and also further validates our position that a second wave of COVID-19 outbreak is taking root in the country.”

The message to the New Year celebrant is simple: this virus is highly contagious, it will take months for the discovered vaccines to begin protecting the wider population here in Africa, and you have an obligation to yourself, to your family, to your friends and to your community to try to limit the spread as much as you can. As you celebrate, as you pop that champagne, as you smoke that shisha, as you gather to worship God, remember that there is an invisible enemy lurking from the air you breathe.

Look, we understand Coronavirus fatigue and people are now feeling like it’s okay to drop their guard. Please, don’t give up the fight. This virus is here to stay a little longer. As you enter 2021, carry your masks with you. The life you save may be your own. Mask up, wash up and keep at least 6 feet of distance from others.