Since the first reported COVID-19 on 18 March 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed 13,446 cases with 312 deaths with a case fatality rate of 2.5 per cent. At least 12,007 people recovered from COVID-19 giving it a 94 per cent recovery rate. Coronavirus daily tests in Zambia have reduced from about 2,500 to a slightly over 500, due to lack of reagents and delays disruptions in the global supply chain.
Of the 312 reported deaths, over 75 per cent were brought in dead (BID) with Lusaka reporting the highest caseload. Comparing the BID caseload in University Treatment Hospital (UTH), to the previous year’s January to July 2019 reporting period, there is a 16.9 per cent increase. According to the MOH, community transmission is the highest rate of infection with highest caseload in Lusaka and Copperbelt. The outbreak has reached all ten provinces and 68 out of 116 districts have confirmed cases increasing on a weekly basis.
Initial findings from the MOH COVID-19 Seroprevalence Survey revealed a 5 - 10 per cent prevalence among health workers and households in the community. The survey was conducted between the 2 and 30 July in six districts which had higher numbers of COVID-19 cases: Lusaka, Livingstone, Kitwe, Ndola, Nakonde and Solewzi. The survey highlighted that there was a high prevalence of COVID-19 in July and a low prevalence prior to July. According to Professor Mulenga, Zambian Public Health Institute (ZNPHI), the survey showed that most Zambians are susceptible to COVID-19 and that more infections are occurring in the community than being reported. The full report will be published in the coming weeks.
On the 27 August, the Ministry of Health launched the National Strategy for Reducing New Infections of COVID-19 to sensitize the community on the importance of compliance to public health measures. It centres revised Health Strategy on COVID-19. The strategy has five parts including 1) rules for individuals, 2) enforcement of public health measures, 3) screening and testing, 4) knowing your status and keeping safe and 5) intensified case management. The strategy builds on and compliments the MOH recent launch Ministry of Health Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the MOH Revised standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Community Engagement. For the last two weeks of August the MOH has been disseminating the SOPs in all five provinces.
On the 7 September, the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) released findings from the School Readiness and Accountability Monitoring conducted in all ten provinces by Zambian National Education Coalition (ZANEC), UNICEF and Zambian Open Community Schools (ZOCS). The report focused on schools adherence to COVID-19 public health guidelines and assess the alternative modes of learning being implemented by MoGE. Of the 501 schools assessed, over 78 per cent had handwashing stations in every classroom and 67 per cent of schools has latrines. Only 41 per cent of schools have a water pump with Luapula province reporting the least with less than 5 per cent. Social distancing in the classroom was noted at 98 per cent and 88 per cent reported having enough masks for all learners and children. The report also highlighted that less than 23 per cent of learners were accessing alternative modes of learning (distance learning modalities). Children from rural communities had no, or limited access to alternative modes of learning due to infrastructures, access to digital technology, TV and radio’s. In addition, the report noted an increase in pregnancy with (143 out of 501 schools reported teenage pregnancy) and higher number of marriage ( 53 out of the 501 schools reported known childhood marriage) as the negative impact of staying at home.
Water Aid conducted the COVID-19 Vulnerability Assessment in Lusaka urban slums and low residential setting interviewing 431 households survey and 20 FGD with vulnerable groups. Over 31.6 per cent of household’s water sources were located outside the premises and adhering to social distancing in fetching water was reported as a challenge to 21 per cent of respondents. 49.3 per cent of households reported that they did not have designated area for handwashing and 42.5 per cent of households share their toilets with other families, further exacerbating the challenges in practicing good hygiene and social distancing. Respondents also reported that their income was affected by COVID-19. Of the 102 respondents who confirmed employment (86.9 per cent were formally employed and 38.6 per cent informally employed) 72.5 per cent of this reported that their salary was cut due to COVID-19.
On 11 September, President Lungu announced the official re-opening of schools, colleges and universities from the 14-28 September. Bars and nightclubs, under restricted hours were also granted permission to re-open as caseloads of COVID-19 has declined in the past three weeks.