AFTER massive pressure from various stakeholders for him to address the nation on the deadly COVID-19, President Edgar Lungu yesterday finally broke his silence regarding the pandemic.
In an unanimated and lukewarm speech, the President said the country was “at war” with the disease.
“Remember, we are at war, a public health war against COVID-19 where everyone must stand up and be counted. The health guidelines of frequently washing hands, sanitising, cleaning our environment, not shaking hands and observing social distance from each other are key to our survival,” President Lungu said as he announced the country having recorded 12 cases in total.
He called on citizens to be each other’s brother and sister’s keeper and encourage one another to seek medical attention whenever one feels unwell and exhibits flu-like symptoms.
“This fight cannot be won without community participation,” he said. “Exactly nine days after the first two COVID-19 cases were announced, 10 more cases have now been identified bringing the number to 12. Eleven of them had travelled abroad in recent weeks and acquired the disease from outside the country. One had come into contact with them locally, and they have all been quarantined.”
President Lungu announced that he had directed the Ministry of Finance to mobilise resources in an effort to combat the coronavirus.
He said his government had directed the Zambian missions abroad and department of immigration to be alert by reviewing the issuance of visas for people wanting to travel into the country as well as at all ports of entry for all travellers from countries affected by COVID-19.
“You are all aware that, my Cabinet has already approved the COVID-19 contingency plan, including its budget and directed the Ministry of Finance to mobilise resources to enable line ministries, private sector and other key stakeholders to contain and combat the spread of the coronavirus disease in a multisectoral and coordinated manner,” he said.
President Lungu said travellers would be allowed entry in the country however, upon screening those who exhibit symptoms would be quarantined in a medical facility for treatment, while all other travellers without symptoms would be quarantined for at least 14 days at their own cost.
He added that the government had suspended non-essential foreign travel, particularly, to countries, which have confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“Public gatherings such as conferences, weddings, funerals, festivals, are to be restricted to at least 50 people subject to them complying with public health authority guidelines. Restaurants must operate only on a take-away and delivery basis. All bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms and casinos must close,” President Lungu ordered. “All international flights to and from Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, and Mfuwe international airports are suspended. Instead, all international flights should land at and depart from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport only, to ensure efficient and effective screening of travellers, as well as following them up by our health authorities.”
President Lungu assured the nation that he would at an opportune time provide further update and guidance on the coronavirus.
“In the meantime, the council of ministers on disaster management shall be providing regular updates periodically,” said President Lungu.