PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has extended closure of bars, nightclubs, casinos, airports and other measures for two more weeks to combat COVID-19.
Addressing the nation in a televised address yesterday, President Lungu said while the measures he had announced in March have had positive impact in addressing spread of COVID-19, they also had serious negative impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
“During this period and on each passing day, I have been spending sleepless nights as I think about that woman in Chilenje who sells chikanda and groundnuts by the street, that barber in Chiwempala, and that young lady who plaits hair in Mazabuka. With the coming into effect of the measures I announced in my last address on COVID-19, our people’s livelihoods and indeed those of many others have been adversely affected,” he noted.
President Lungu said he was fully aware that many Zambians were not earning their usual incomes because businesses had been disrupted while others were not working because their workplaces had closed down due to COVID-19.
He noted that some people had vowed that they would rather die from COVID-19 than from hunger.
“But I advise you to choose life. Please choose life,” he said. “I am also alive to the fact that during this period the economy has not performed well. For instance, the kwacha rapidly depreciated from around K13.5 before COVID-19 to now around K19.0 to a US dollar. This means that the national budget has equally depreciated by a similar margin and as a consequence, allocations to Ministries, Provinces and Other Spending Agencies have been thrown into disarray.”
President Lungu said while the measures he announced could have had negative effects, they also have yielded positive results in mitigating the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this regard, we must all pay tribute to the multi-sectoral frontline workers because without their courage, valor, and patriotism, the carnage would have been beyond our control,” he said.
“Despite many of us tending to express ourselves too much, and publicising ourselves too much, and trying to be the heroes of our nation, COVID-19 has shown and taught us that an integrated coordinated multi-sectoral response which cuts across all boundaries of any form, across political divide, creed, race or colour can yield desired results.”
President Lungu noted that the victories scored in the recent past were anchored on unity of purpose among all players.
“Yes, we lost a young man who was full of life, an enterprising businessman, to COVID-19. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family. Our health workers did what they could but, unfortunately, he could not make it,” he said.
President Lungu announced that yesterday 17 patients were discharged and that out of 82 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, no new positive cases were recorded.
“This marks the seventh consecutive day with no new positive case recorded in Zambia,” President Lungu said adding that cumulative numbers of COVID-19 cases remain at 39, with one death, and 24 discharges. “Currently 14 patients are admitted, among them two on the Copperbelt. All patients under quarantine or isolation are stable except for a 74-year-old man whose condition has been unstable,” he said.
President Lungu also disclosed that the Ministry of Health was currently investigating a suspicious death that occurred in the University Teaching Hospital on Wednesday, 8th April 2020.
He noted that the major threat to the country’s response to COVID-19 was complacency.
President Lungu said there was clear evidence from other countries that after a period of zero recordings of COVID-19, there was always a possibility of resurgence of cases, particularly when control measures were relaxed.
“There is still an opportunity to sustain these gains that we have attained to date and preserve the country’s health security by scaling up interventions that have proven to be effective such as the ones we have instituted in our country,” he said.
“Arising from the successes scored in the last two weeks, I now extend the period of the current measures to another two weeks, depending on how the pandemic evolves.”
President Lungu also announced personal and social behavioural conducts to be followed by all citizens in addition to measures he announced a fortnight ago.
“All citizens are advised to ensure that they wear face masks at all times, particularly, in public places such as markets, buses, bus stops and shopping malls; all citizens are reminded to practice high levels of personal hygiene like washing or sanitising hands frequently; all citizens are reminded to cover their mouths with a flexed elbow when coughing, among others,” he urged.
President Lungu also noted that people have poorly adhered to social distancing based on many reasons, including socio-economic factors.
“So if we cannot stay apart from each other as prescribed by the health experts, for example in mini buses and markets, please ensure that you use face masks as a minimum standard,” he said.
He said besides human-to-human transmission as recently observed in Zambia, it had been noted, after medical analysis, that the next threat of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic was dependent on management of businesses along the borders with regard to cross border traders, truck drivers and travellers in general.
“Efforts must be put in place to ensure that we strictly monitor all our borders and systematically screen, test and quarantine all incoming travellers in a coordinated or multi-sectoral manner,” directed President Lungu.
“In conclusion, please let us not break the rules at the expense of our lives; let us not endanger our families; those whose employers have said stay home, do not report for work; stay home. Meanwhile, we shall keep on reviewing the situation day by day as the covid-19 pandemic evolves.”