On 16th June 2021, His Excellency the President Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu through the Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr. Simon K. Miti issued directives to heighten interventions to prevent and mitigate the further spread of COVID-19 in the country.
It was made clear then that, through the detailed assessment to be conducted from 8th to 15th July 2021, the directives would be reviewed and depending on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, appropriate decisions would be made on the way forward. It is unequivocal that the third wave of the COVID-19 which started seven weeks ago in our country has had disruptive effects on the health and socio-economic activities of the country.
Since the COVID-19 was confirmed in the country on 18th March 2020, Zambia has to-date cumulatively recorded 183,344 confirmed cases, 168,052 recoveries (92%) and 3,022 deaths. COVID-19 has affected all the 116 districts in the country and even today we continue to see an established person-to-person transmission of the infection.
Members of the press,We have been clear that the COVID-19 in the country has been fueled by the laxity in adhering to public health and social measures, the cold weather and presence of the variants of concern.The months of June and July have been the worst in terms of the COVID-19 burden and its effects. The national COVID-19 positivity rate for this period has been above 20% against the target of less than 5% with an average of; 150 admissions to hospitals with 75% of those admitted requiring oxygen therapy, 120 critical patients and 40 deaths per day. We all remember that sad day in June 2021 when we lost 72 lives in 24 hours.It is clear that the third wave has been more severe than the first and second waves leaving the health care system overwhelmed.
Government is cognizant of the fact that the interventions we have put in place to fight COVID-19 have negatively affected our people at various levels. Government, in its decision making, has had to delicately balance between saving lives and allowing the wheels of our economy to continue running. Our COVID-19 response has been premised on curtailing the further spread of the infection in the shortest possible time and steer the country to normalcy. The Government, therefore, would like to restate that all the interventions introduced so far have not been meant to be punitive but to save the country from the indelible catastrophic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the Press,Government sympathizes with our people who have been negatively affected by these well-intended measures and it is our conviction that these measures have since saved many lives.From the time His Excellency the President, Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, issued the directives on 16th June 2021 to curb the further spread of COVID-19 in the country, some progress has been made. The President takes this opportunity to commend the multisectoral response team for the work done thus far.
However, arising from the current situation the country finds itself in today, it is clear that we have not yet won the fight against COVID-19 and we need to continue with the heightened interventions to prevent and mitigate the further spread of COVID-19 in the country.To this effect, His Excellency the President, through Secretary to the Cabinet, has directed the following interventions:
1. Allow the General Certificate of Education (GCE) and Grade 9 external examinations to proceed and be administered as scheduled on Monday 19th July 2021 under strict adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines.
2. Pre, primary and secondary schools to remain closed and re-open on Monday 16th August 2021 subject to the inspection and certification by the Ministries of General Education, Health in conjunction with the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), depending on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. Universities, colleges and other institutions of higher learning to continue with on-line classes only for the next 21 days.
4. Bars and taverns to continue operating only on a take-away basis for the next 21 days.
5. Casinos and night clubs to remain closed for the next 21 days
6. Restaurants to continue operating only on a take-away basis for the next 21 days.
7. Churches and other places of worship to only conduct two by one hour services per week.
8. Gymnasiums to remain closed for the next 21 days except for outdoor activities with strict adherence to the COVID-19 health guidelines.
9. Wedding parties, Chilanga mulilos, matebetos and kitchen parties remain suspended.
10. Funerals to only have 50 mourners.
11. Public transport operators must ensure masking up and physical distancing is always observed. Bus and train stations authorities to ensure full adherence to the Five (5) Golden Rules.
12. All Markets to ensure adherence to the public health guidelines in line with the Five (5) Golden Rules.
13. All physical conferences, workshops and general meetings remain suspended until further notice.In conclusion, His Excellency the President, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, has directed the multi-sectoral team to ensure that there is strict compliance to all these directives.
I thank you.
Amos Malupenga Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services