“Do not drop your Covid 19 guard,” Sylvia Tembo-Masebo warns Zambians

Minister of Health (MoH) Ms. Sylvia Tembo-Masebo (far right) with Dr. Kalangwa Kalangwa and Professor Lloyd Mulenga

Do not drop your Covid 19 guard,” Sylvia Tembo-Masebo warns Zambians

“Do not drop your Covid 19 guard,” Sylvia Tembo-Masebo warns Zambians
…coronavirus is real, prevention is better than curing!
…a Healthy people, build a wealthy nation

By Saeed Simon Banda, Henry Chunza, Malvin Nkhoma and Derrick Sinjela in Lusaka, Zambia

Minister Sylvia Tembo-Masebo is urging Zambians not to drop the guard with regard to keeping Coronavirus (COVID-19) five (5) golden rule guidelines and ensuring that communities are kept neat and tidy.

Preaching a message of prevention is better than cure, Ms. Tembo – Masebo implored citizens to augment Government resolve to nip Covid 19 and diarrhea in the bud by strict adherence to the five golden rules and boiling drinking water.

During a Thursday, 12th January, 2023 Press Briefing on the prevailing COVID-19 situation and Diarrheal diseases, Ms. Tembo-Masebo implored countrymen and women to take heed that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a major threat to global health security.

“I want to take an opportunity to thank the Almighty God for giving us life and health to make it so far in 2023. We do not take it for granted,” Ms. Tembo-Masebo prayed, pointing out that in the first week of 2023, close to 3 million cases and over 11,000 deaths had been reported around the world.

In the same period the African region recorded over 4,500 cases and eight (8) deaths.

A concerned Ms. Tembo-Masebo briefed citizens that the current prevailing COVID 19 cases are reportedly driven by a sub-variant of the Omicron virus which is now called XBB.

“As you may recall, the COVID-19 virus keeps generating new forms of itself as it continues to multiply across the globe. Similar to the Omicron virus, the XBB is said to have high ability to pass from one person to another; and here in Zambia we have confirmed that the current increase in the number of cases we are seeing is driven by this XBB,” cautioned Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

Currently serving as United Party for National Development (UPND) Member of Parliament (MP) for Chongwe Constituency in Lusaka Province, Ms. Tembo-Masebo explained that globally, in the last 7 days, 2, 875,795 new COVID-19 cases including 11,354 deaths were reported, registering a seven percent (7%) reduction in weekly cases was recorded.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo said the highest burden of new cases was in Asia (69%); followed by North America (11%); Europe (10%); South America (8%) and Oceania (2%).
According to Ms  Tembo-Masebo, Japan recorded the highest number of cases (1,274,801) and also the highest number of deaths (2,630) globally in the last 7 days.

In all, Africa accounted for 0.3% of new cases in the last 7 days.

A seventy-six per cent (76%) increase in weekly cases was reported.

Of the 7,474 new cases in Africa, the highest proportion (28%) was recorded in South Africa.

Raising concern, Ms. Tembo-Masebo cautioned citizens to prevent falling prey to Covid 19 as  of the 23 new deaths in Africa, the highest proportion at thirty percent (30%) was in Zambia.
“In the last 24 hours, 401,145 new cases including 1,600 deaths were reported.                                                                                              The highest burden of new cases was in Asia (73%); followed by Europe (10%); North America (10%) and South America (7%). By country, the highest number of cases were reported in USA (37,497). USA recorded the highest number of deaths (408) globally in the last 24 hours. Africa accounted for 0.3% of new cases in the last 24 hours. Of the 1,334 new cases in Africa, the highest proportion (45%) was recorded in South Africa,” said a worried Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

Locally, Ms. Tembo-Masebo noted that Zambia has seen a steady increase in the number of daily new cases, on account of the test positivity rate and geographical spread of COVID-19 in terms of affected districts.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo says Zambia is experiencing an increase in the rate of hospitalisations and mortality.

In the last 24 hours, as at Thursday, 12th January, 2023, Ms. Tembo-Masebo said Zambia had recorded a total of 311 new COVID-19 cases at eight-point-five percent (8.5% positivity) and three (3) deaths.

The breakdown of the new cases reported in the last 24 hours by district and within province positivity is as follows:
• Central: 48 new cases, with provincial positivity at 13.1%;
• Copperbelt: 61 new cases, with provincial positivity at 19%
• Eastern: 31 new cases with provincial positivity at 5.3%;
• Luapula: 14 new cases with Provincial positivity at 2.1%;
• Lusaka: 73 new cases with Provincial positivity at 9.9%
• North-western: 19 new cases, with provincial positivity at 10.3%;
• Southern: 62 new cases with Provincial positivity at 11.2%.
• Western: 3 new cases with Provincial positivity at 3.2%.
Muchinga and Northern Province did not officially report any new cases in the last 24 hours.

On the cumulative number of COVID-19 confirmed cases recorded to date in Zambia, Ms. Tembo-Masebo says the figure now stands at 336,640 with 330,658 (98%) recoveries.

“The cumulative number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded to date stands at 4034 (classified as 2881 COVID-19 deaths and 1153 COVID-19 associated deaths). We currently have 1948 active cases, 29 of whom are admitted to hospital; eight (8) of these being new admissions in the last 24 hours. Of those admitted, nine (9) are on oxygen therapy and three are now in critical condition.
We sadly lost three individuals all males aged 19, 62 and 96 years. Two of the three deaths are COVID deaths meaning that these individuals died due to complications directly attributed to COVID-19. Both of them had high BP and were not vaccinated and developed severe COVID pneumonia. The other death was a COVID associated death in an individual with head injury following a road traffic accident with unknown vaccination status. This picture again shows us that COVID is still affecting and claiming lives of all individuals regardless of age. Vaccination is still proving to be reducing severity of disease and we thus encourage all to be vaccinated and to get booster vaccine doses,” elaborated Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

Granted the above alluded too statistics, Ms. Tembo-Masebo says COVID-19  remains a stark reality in Zambia and the world over.

“The Ministry of Health and its health security wing, the Zambia National Public Health institute are working hard to ensure that the Zambian people are protected from COVID-19.

On account of the foregoing situation, Ms. Tembo-Masebo says  authorities have instituted the following measures: ”
1. Strengthened community and facility surveillance to ensure prompt identification and reporting of cases
2. Intensified testing  including  expanding national capacity for genomic surveillance to determine which COVID-19 variants are circulating in the country
3. Enhanced case management including the initiation of test and treat services. This involves the use of the new oral drugs we introduced before the end of the year.  Re-training of health care workers on COVID-19 management is also underway as you know as the virus changes even some treatment models also change.
4. The provision of COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots as required
5. Risk communication and community engagement including the use of fora such as this”.

Professor Lloyd Mulenga (far right)

Ms. Tembo-Masebo informed the nation that Zambia had currently run out of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but sufficient stocks of the Johnson & Johnson as well as Sinopharm vaccines were readily available.

“My Ministry is working hard to ensure in-flow of the needed vaccines so that our people continue to receive vaccinations,” assured Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo says the Zambia Immunization Technical Working Group (ZITAG),  a team of local experts is currently reviewing information on vaccines and shall in due course be briefing the nation after  recommendations reach the Ministry of Health, with particular emphasis to guide how booster doses must be managed.

Concerning international travel and trade,  Ms. Tembo-Masebo continue to demand that travellers are coming into Zambia   provide evidence of full COVID-19 vaccination or of a valid negative PCR test.

“The temperature scanners at the airports will automatically detect individuals with temperature above normal and those must be subjected to a COVID PCR test.
As we continue monitoring the COVID-19 trends, we urge the public to adhere to COVID-19 prevention measures including practicing hand hygiene and masking up in public places. All persons who develop symptoms suggesting of COVID-19 should present themselves to the nearest health facility,” said Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo reinforced that the rainy season increased risk of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dysentery, explaining that by the end of the year 2022, at least 28 countries globally were experiencing cholera outbreaks.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo says Zambia, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi remain prone to  cholera outbreaks.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo says with climate conditions worsening, human displacement will intensify, along with droughts and flooding resulting in extreme human suffering.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo says Zambia is ‘NOT’ exempt from these conditions, as she had already received meteorological notice of flash floods expected during this week and the coming days across the country’s ten (10) provinces and 116 districts.

“This therefore is a clarion call to our beloved country that we need to take steps to particularly avoid a cholera outbreak within our borders.
While we have so far done well and have not recorded any case of confirmed cholera since May 2022, our environmental conditions make us remain at risk of an outbreak. The increasing rain, poor drainage and general increase in garbage all point to fertile conditions for outbreak of diarrheal diseases including the dreadful cholera.
Let me remind us that as Zambia, we positioned ourselves in line with global efforts to end cholera by 2030 and we actually moved the national target to achieve control by 2025. To these ends, national multisectoral strategies have been put in place to really fast track and enhance national preparedness,” said Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

More so, Ms. Tembo-Masebo says the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) recognized Zambia’s engagement and nominated  President Hakainde Hichilema as the Global Cholera Control Champion during the sidelines of the 2022 World Health Assembly.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo says Zambia cannot afford to let cholera or indeed other obvious diarrheal diseases to breakout.

“We simply cannot afford another disruption. Therefore, our disease intelligence sense tells us that to avoid cholera and other diarrheal disease outbreaks in our country,” said Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

As a five (5) point way forward, Ms. Tembo-Masebo says firstly, is to create awareness across the Zambia to ensure that our communities understand the diarrheal disease threat.

Secondly, ensuring that all drinking water is made safe by chlorination or boiling and suitable storage.

The third intervention is use of appropriate sanitation facilities with hygienic  disposal of household and human waste.

Washing hands frequently with soap and water is cited as the fourth measure while the fifth solution is ensuring that all food is thoroughly cooked and safely stored.

Ms. Tembo-Masebo implored citizens to manage waste, stressing that the state of Zambian cities, markets, bus stops and community gathering places are in dire need of  improvement.

Minister of Health (MoH) Ms. Sylvia Tembo-Masebo (far right) with Dr. Kalangwa Kalangwa and Professor Lloyd Mulenga

If we

“I am appealing to all stakeholders to come on board so we sanitize our communities, especially trading places in urban areas to mitigate against this obvious threat.
I will end by stating that prevention is always better than cure, and certainly cheaper. Let us hold hands together and keep our nation clean and healthy,” prayed Ms. Tembo-Masebo.

Minister of Health Hon. Sylvia T. Masebo, MP., holding a Media Briefing on public health issues of concern: COVID-19, Cholera, Typhoid and Dysentery.


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