[By Changala Sichilongo]
THE REOPENING of schools is an important milestone for the country as we continue to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, says health Permanent Secretary Kennedy Malama.
But Dr Malama warns that Zambia faces an increasing threat at Kasumbalesa border which is one of the country’s busiest points of entry and exit.
“In line with the new normal and the directive given by President [Edgar] Lungu, the multi-sectoral response teams at all levels of our structures led by the Ministry of Education have ensured that schools are open today [yesterday] the 1st of June 2020. This is an important milestone for our country as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “The government has put in place public health measures to ensure the safety of the examination class learners and members of staff as the schools reopen, these include hand hygiene and sanitation facilities, cleaning and disinfection of classrooms and school premises, securing reusable masks through various initiatives including donations and this programme is being led by the government, orientation of teachers in COVID-19 health education…”
In the last five days, Zambia recorded 32 new COVID-19 cases from 3,361 tests conducted, bringing the cumulative infections to 1,089 with seven deaths and 912 recoveries.
There are now 170 active cases.
“The Ministry of Health has prepared health facilities to support and manage any event of COVID-19 in the schools that have been assigned to their respective zones,” he said. “We are not taking anything to chance. Almost all our schools in our country they do have a health facility which is linked to that particular institution. So those health facilities have been primed apart from providing health activities in those schools, they are also conducting surveillance at the same time.”
Dr Malama said the government reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring safety of its people, more so children who went back to school yesterday in line with the agenda of universal health coverage for all and ‘leaving no one behind’.
“The children are future leaders. We must secure their health and education,” he said. “Health being a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being are not only the absence of disease of infirmity as defined by WHO. We need to embrace it as a country.”
On the evolution of the pandemic, Dr Malama said the Copperbelt continued to record a number of cases with a wider geographical spread – cumulatively standing at 83 cases.
“We also face an increasing threat at Kasumbalesa as you are aware, it is one of our very busy points of entry and exit. And we need to pay particular attention,” he said. “In this regard, a team of experts from Ministry of Health, Zambia National Public Health Institute is on the Copperbelt to provide technical support and on the ground execution of activities so that we can mop up Copperbelt in terms of cases, which may be spreading the infections.”
Dr Malama said the team would focus targeted screening and testing, community engagement and sensitization, enhanced case searching, cleaning and disinfection of public places.
“And Kasumbalesa is receiving special attention,” he said.
From the new cases, Dr Malama said two were contacts to known positives from within Lusaka, six from routine screening comprising five from Lusaka, one (Ndola), 20 truck drivers from Nakonde, four from Chilundu, Chapata (one) Ndola (three), Livingstone (five), Chadiza (two) and Mwami (one).
“We also recorded four from community screening and all these were coming from Nakonde,” said Dr Malama. “All patients remaining under isolation are in stable condition…With the support of various stakeholders we have increased the number of testing sites in our country to six. This expansion in testing will enable us to test more samples and improve our turn-around time. Furthermore, as a country, we have received various supplies from the World Health Organisation and the Jack Ma Alibaba Foundation through the Africa Union to support the COVID-19 response in Zambia.”