Zambia recorded the first case of COVID-19 on 18 March 2020, and as 26 July 4,481 cases had been confirmed with 139 deaths reported, in 38 out of 116 districts countrywide, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH). The burden of infection has continued to increase significantly with a near-doubling of confirmed cases weekly and a fourfold increase in deaths since 6 July, when there were 1,632 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths. Out of the confirmed cases, 23 per cent are among incoming travellers and at points of entry; 20 per cent from contact tracers; 18 per cent from routine surveillance and 24 per cent from community screening, while the remaining are other transmission. WHO has reported an increase in infections among medical practitioners, with at least 115 health workers in Zambia infected as of 16 July. Health authorities have recorded a notable increase in the number of people who were brought in dead (BID) to health facilities, indicating that there is wider community transmission and that fewer people with severe cases are seeking treatment at health facilities.
On 17 July, the National Epidemic Preparedness Committee (NEPCC) discussed the need for large scale risk communication to be rolled out and greater emphasis of public compliance to public health measures. The MOH has restarted sharing the daily updates on social media to raise awareness of the increased caseloads and the reality of infections in the communities. On 20 July, two Members of Parliament died due to COVID-19, triggering the adjournment of parliament and the testing of MPs and staff. A total of 16 MPs and 11 members of staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and are being monitored by health officials.
The Government on 8 April relaxed some of the initial restriction measures and recommended the opening of schools for examination classes starting 1 June, international airports, restaurants and gyms subject to adherence to public health measures and social distancing. The Government is enforcing mandatory 14-day quarantine, testing, and regular monitoring at their residence or preferred place of stay for persons entering Zambia. Tourist visas remain suspended. Despite, the mandatory requirement of wearing masks in public places and the provision of handwashing/sanitisers at the entrance of all retail businesses, health authorities have reported a continued lack of compliance by the public.
The continued closure of non-examination classes continues to disrupt learning for over 3 million children and adolescents and the provision of critical services, including school feeding programs for disadvantaged children. Children especially girls are reportedly at increased risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, child marriage and other harmful practices. Protection partners have reported a lack of PPE for non-medical GBV responders such as social workers, police officers, prosecutors and others, with limited places of safety for GBV survivors especially vulnerable children.
Although the full extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security is yet to be determined, food security partners have reported that the containment measures are likely to impact livelihoods, including of vulnerable communities and low-income people in urban and per urban settings.