Relaxation of adherence to COVID-19 guidelines fuels spike in cases, deaths in Zambia

Workers disinfect the Zambezi market in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, May 15, 2020. (Xinhua/Martin Mbangweta)

Stakeholders in Zambia have expressed worry that people’s laxity in adhering to preventive guidelines against the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the cold weather, has resulted in a rise in cases and deaths.

Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya says the country has seen a rise in both cases and deaths in the last 10 days, an indication that the pandemic has taken a new twist in the country.

According to the latest figures, Zambia has reported 3,326 cases and 128 deaths, with the health minister indicating that the cases may continue to rise up to August unless people changed their attitudes towards adhering to the guidelines.

The health minister said the country is in a dangerous surge of the virus due to the cold weather and that high cases may be persistent until August.

According to him, collective action is needed in order to contain the pandemic.

The situation has been compounded by the fact that many people have dropped their guard as they have stopped following the laid-down preventive measures such as wearing face masks, avoiding handshakes, maintaining social distancing, and sanitizing, among others.

Another issue fuelling the spike in cases is that some Zambians believe that the pandemic is not real but just a hoax.

Stakeholders have expressed worry about the sudden surge in cases and deaths.

The Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection (JCTR), an influential economic and social lobby organization, has warned that laxity among citizens on preventive measures will result in the death of many citizens.

Father Alex Muyebe, the organizations’ chief executive officer said it was unfortunate that compliance with the stipulated preventive measures is not the same as it was around April.

“It is worrying that laxity on COVID-19 preventive measures in Zambia has come at a time when community transmission is steadily increasing. It is evident that people in the communities have prematurely dropped the guard,” he is quoted as saying by local media.

According to him, the failure to comply with the preventive measures was a recipe for disaster.

The country’s human rights body, the Human Rights Commission (HRC), is also concerned at the relaxation to adhere to guidelines.

The human rights body, which conducted a random survey in selected urban and peri-urban areas, said one of the reasons behind relaxation to adherence is the myth that the pandemic is a hoax.

Mweelwa Muleya, the human rights body spokesperson called for a change of attitude and revival of the campaign to combat the global pandemic.

The human rights body also established that some people do believe that the pandemic does not kill hence the move to relax in observance of health guidelines.

According to him, there is a need to have a national communication strategy to provide comprehensive guidance to various stakeholders in order to avoid any misinformation and ambiguity in the fight against the pandemic.

Indeed, COVID-19 is real and not a hoax and if people continue with their attitude of disregarding the health guidelines, the country will continue seeing a rise in cases and deaths.

Zambia needs to take a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) which has stated that South Africa’s surging numbers could be a “precursor” for outbreaks across Africa.

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