Mon. Nov 28th, 2022

Lusaka (Friday 26th February, 2022)

Today our routine media briefing will focus on TB, one of the public health issues of concern.

You may be aware that Tuberculosis (TB) remains a disease of public health concern globally and in our settings, TB continues to be one of the top 10 causes of death in Zambia. Despite the multiple interventions over a number of decades, the burden of TB across the globe and in particular the southern African region remains high. The TB incidence rate in Zambia currently stands at 307 per 100,000 populations. This translates into at least 60,000 new TB infections every year.

In spite of the burden of TB remaining high, in the last two decades, Zambia has made significant progress in reducing the TB incidence rate. As a country we have managed to reduce the TB incidence from 761/100,000 in the year 2000 to 307/100,000 in 2021 representing a 60% reduction. Further, we have an accelerated reduction in TB deaths in both persons living with HIV and those without.

Notwithstanding this great progress, mortality arising from TB remains high and of great concern. Every year we lose not less than 2000 lives due to TB across all age groups, children inclusive. Certainly, this calls for urgent action, we cannot let this continue. We have to take bold steps and implement high impact interventions to address the current situation. We can only make bold and precise decisions, if we are informed by empirical evidence. I wish to share that through the University of Zambia and the team from the University teaching Hospital and Author Davison Hospital, Zambia participated in two landmark research that has provided new guidance on how to address TB in children. We have learnt from the two studies that TB is highly curable and that there are now easier and cost effective ways of diagnosing TB in children that was earlier thought to be challenging.

The message for the public, particularly mothers father and guardians is that all children with a cough of any duration, fever, weight loss, reduced playfulness, malnutrition must be brought to our various health facilities for TB screening. To our front line health care workers, lets scale up TB screening in children using the various diagnostic tool available.

I hereby reiterate commitment by the Ministry of health in ending TB across the frontiers of this beloved country. And that we will continue to foster partnerships with the various the universities and all academic institutions to provide strategic information and evidence to inform our response to TB.

Coming to the COVID-19 situation, Zambia is gradually resolving, however we remain cognizant of the fact that the outbreak not yet over with an average national positivity lingering around 3%.

We continue to make significant progress in controlling COVID-19 focusing on the seven strategic pillars including vaccination services. I single out the pillar on vaccination services because the ultimate solution to halting the transmission of COVID-19 remains in having a fully protected population. This would be achieved by vaccinating not less than 70% of the population at every level including within the country, province, District and communities. The COVID-19 has paralysed many aspects of our healthcare systems leading to increased burden of other diseases and inadequate support in some aspects. It would be good to halt the transmission of COVID-19 so that we concentrate on managing other diseases.

We still have members of our population who are averse to COVID-19 vaccines and yet we have provided time and again the safety and efficacy of vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19. There is need to take special steps to protect one’s health especially those with vulnerability to severe illness including the elderly and those with underlining conditions.

I will now update you on the COVID-19 situation in the country.

In the last 24 hours we recorded 53 new COVID-19 cases out of 1,615 tests conducted countrywide, giving an overall national positivity of 3%. Of note, we had no new cases in Lusaka and Northern provinces. We admitted 2 new patients in the last 24hrs, and we discharged 102 patients from both home management and facility, leaving 565 active cases nationwide. Of the current active cases, only 8, (which is 1% of all active cases) are admitted to hospital with 6 on oxygen therapy and 2 classified as critically ill.

On an encouraging note, we have maintained our zero death reporting streak, with no deaths in the last 24 hours, marking the twentieth day of no COVID-related deaths, an achievement we owe to our gallant health workers, our vaccination campaign and of course you the Zambian citizenry for the role you have played in ensuring the pandemic is brought under control by adhering to the safety guidance and getting vaccinated.

As I conclude, allow to re-emphasise the five golden rules:

To further prevent your child from getting the COVID-19 and spreading it to others please observe and let your children emulate the following:

1) Always wear your mask in public places ensuring your nose, mouth and chin are well covered;
2) Frequently wash your hands with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
3) Keep physically distanced with not less than 1 meter between you and the next person;
4) Avoid crowded places;
5) Visit the nearest health care facility when unwell.

The sixth bullet to preventing COVID-19 is getting yourself and your children 12 years and above vaccinated against COVID-19. If fully vaccinated remember to get your booster shot 6 months after a two dose vaccine or 2 months after you primary Johnson and Johnson shot. Those between 12 and 17 years are being administered with only Pfizer vaccine which has been proved to be safe and effective in this age group.

May I remind you that once all districts reach a coverage of above 70%, we will drop mask wearing across the country. Let us all take responsibility

God bless you all.

Hon Sylvia T. Masebo, MP
Minister of Health

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