Home Columns Cholera more deadly than Covid-19: Too early to close schools!!

Cholera more deadly than Covid-19: Too early to close schools!!

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THE recent implementation of the revised national education curriculum by Government, which introduced teaching of local language syllabus from Pre-School to Grade four level in Primary Schools, is progressing well in Choma district, Southern Province. Above, Grade One pupils at Kalundu Ka Maria Primary School were found cheerfully learning how to construct sentences in Citonga in their classroom.
THE recent implementation of the revised national education curriculum by Government, which introduced teaching of local language syllabus from Pre-School to Grade four level in Primary Schools, is progressing well in Choma district, Southern Province. Above, Grade One pupils at Kalundu Ka Maria Primary School were found cheerfully learning how to construct sentences in Citonga in their classroom.

By Kabanda Mwansa

It is common knowledge that every government has to formulate and implement practical measures to protect its citizens against the Corona Virus that is spreading so rapidly across the globe. It is the responsibility of every government to devise concrete actions that will give hope and confidence to its citizenry. However, the pre-mature closing of public schools with only three weeks before they go into the recess is not one of the solutions that the Zambian government should have opted for. If anything, especially in remote areas, school children make effective agents of information dissemination to people that have limited access to current affairs, as they act as both mediators and interpreters of diverse public information. Consequently, the closure of public schools in Zambia will only disadvantage pupils from poor families, as parents from the well to do families will always find a way, mostly by engaging part-time teachers to teach their children behind closed doors.

The decision-makers did not make the right ruling of consulting various stakeholders in this fight against the Corona Virus, but were apparently pressured to emulate what other countries are doing. Seemingly, the Zambian decision-makers have been alarmed by the happenings in Europe that have been broadcasted globally by their influential media houses. By the time Zambia made a drastic decision to close public schools, the country never even had any case to refer to as the basis for the decision. If anything, African countries like Zambia should be in the forefront to educate European countries on how to deal with virus outbreaks, and not the other way round.

Zambia has in years battled with the Cholera epidemic, while also shielding itself from the Ebola Virus agitating in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. These two viruses are more deadly, and much more complicated to contain than the Corona Virus, thus Zambian experts have amassed great experience in how to deal with such viruses. Therefore, instead of copy-pasting how Europe is dealing with the Corona epidemic, Zambia should have been the one exporting knowledge on how to deal with such epidemics using the Cholera and Ebola experiences. The countries’ Epidemiologists should be at the forefront of using local experience in the country to scale it at the global level to help other needy countries experiencing such calamities for the first time in centuries. For example, the Chinese doctors that have battled the Corona virus in Wuhan, China have now shifted camp to Italy because they have gained enough experience from their situation.

One of the reasons most European countries closed public schools or rather shifted the learning spaces from schools to home was that, schools in most countries in Europe were just re-opening after a one-week winter break when the Corona Virus struck. As per European tradition during this school winter break, there is overwhelming cross border holidays by families, thus there was always going to be a big chance of pupils\families importing the Corona Virus from across the borders when schools re-opened.

Against this background, most European governments decided that school was going to be done online using different media platforms. Needless to mention here that most European schools have online learning spaces already established, thus, it was quite easy to make a decision that schools be physically closed, but remain open remotely through online interaction between pupils and teachers. This is also true for countries that have done the same in Africa, such as Egypt, Rwanda, and South Africa. These countries’ local technology is quite advanced such that even if public schools have been ordered to close, learning will somehow still take place through technological platforms deliberately installed by the respective governments.

Unfortunately, for Zambia, decisions were made without any consideration for the poor children who will now be languishing in the congested homes without any deliberate alternative on the part of the government. In some of the under-served communities in Zambia, the children are better off being at school because the situation at home is much worse than being at school. For example, in some under-served communities, it is quite difficult to get clean water to wash hands multiple times as recommended by the WHO, households can be more crowded and in some cases, up to 12 people will share a small house.

Thus, self-quarantine and social isolation as it is being propagated by Western methods is not practically possible in these under-served communities, and other high-density areas of the big cities. The pupils in these areas are more at risk of catching and spreading the Coronavirus if they stayed home than if they remained in school. This gives a greater opportunity for public institutions like boarding schools in the country to work as isolation centres where pupils are shielded from the rest of the community with strict rules of guiding the in and out human traffic.

As at now, it is common knowledge that Zambia does not have any domestically transmitted Corona Virus case, meaning that schools especially boarding schools should have been kept intact without exposing them to people that have traveled. Sending these pupils home will only expose them to the virus now that it is being imported into the country through people that have travelled to affected regions.

It is a fact that this virus originated from Asia, then to Europe and other parts of the world, meaning that what Zambia needed was to first impose a strict policy measure to cramp down on the travelling between Zambia and these affected regions. But alas! the people that should have been in the forefront to do this at the time when Zambia needed it most were busy on a campaign trail in Chilubi. Zambia needed to act decisively then when the virus was detected in China by imposing travel restrictions on the citizens and foreigners arriving from these countries.

Now, the policy makers want to show concern that they are on top of the game by closing schools, because that is the easiest of the measures to undertake. If the policy makers had consulted widely from the various stakeholders locally, then it should have been the independent private schools, the colleges and the universities that should have closed first before the public schools are affected. The independent private schools should have closed first because that is where the vulnerability of contracting the Corona Virus is higher because the parents in these schools have a greater probability of travelling to and from the affected regions. A child at Mabumbu Primary School located on the edge of the Bulozi Plain in Limulunga, should not be denied the chance to go to school because some parent at Lake Road Primary School in Lusaka had travelled to Paris, thus bringing the virus along.

Apart from the probability of parents travelling to the epicentres of the virus, pupils in these independent private schools have alternative learning spaces such as media that they can still utilize as opposed to pupils in public schools. After all, the decision makers have their children in these independent private schools, and seemingly care less if learning in public schools is effective or not. Using media as an alternative learning space is also true for the public and private colleges and universities. In these institutions, the teacher\student interaction can still take place using internet alternatives as opposed to the public schools.

Pupils in public schools have been given very limited information on the way forward, and how to navigate the Corona Virus period. For example, the authorities are not emphasising to the pupils that they are sending home, the importance of staying fit and positive. Pupils that have been told to stay home must be encouraged instead, to exercise a lot so that they cultivate higher levels of physical fitness and a positive mind-set. This is because it is scientifically reported that the virus is mostly killing people whose immune system is already weakened by lack of physical fitness, and the presence of other ailments.

Therefore, some physical exercises as opposed to sitting inactive in isolation could make a huge difference. Pupils should equally be encouraged to walk\jog from point A to point B when it concerns reasonable distances as opposed to using congested buses or trains. Thus, it is not just a question of sending pupils home, it is important to also give them such vital information as to stay fit, with a positive mentality, as opposed to fear and stress.

Generally, apart from the measures that have now been implemented as regards to travellers coming into the country from abroad. There is also need for the authorities to devise measures to check all travellers travelling between Lusaka and the rest of the country, and the Copperbelt and the rest of the country, or\and restricting travel internally.

This is because Lusaka and the Copperbelt have a higher probability of people contracting the virus because of the density of the populations in these areas, and having more people travelling abroad. For the rest of the country, the travel history remains low and containment is the most appropriate strategy, as efforts to engage with local community leaders as stakeholders before a full-blown crisis occurs in Zambia is key. As the only cases that have been reported so far in the country came from people who travelled back from abroad, then unity of purpose to prevent the virus from engulfing our already limping socio-economic landscape is the only option. However, it is too early to close public schools without a wide consultation from various stakeholders.

The author is a Zambian social commentator and a PhD research fellow at the Centre for Child and Youth Competence Development at Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences.

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49 COMMENTS

    • This is not a very good analysis of COVID-19. Italy has the best health system in Europe. Truth be told, if you have been watching the news todays, you will see that their hospitals actually resemble hospitals in war zones.

      Zambia dose not have the capacity to fight the epidemic. This virus has to be dealt with like a war situation. Just ask America. their government was puting the virus down, but now, it’s become a full blown almost country-wide out break. All the governments across the world that have not taken this virus seriously in it’s early stages, are paying a very dear price.

      ZAMBIA’s best bet of fighting this is to have a complete lock down at border points with neighbouring countries that have reported positive case of the virus. We don’t have time for politicking or…

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    • Totally agree with approach of managing this problem without hype & panicking. Whereas we can’t ignore it let’s all play our part in making sure it doesn’t unnecessarily spread. Truth is COVID-19 is nothing compared with Pandemics we deal with in Africa such as malaria, cholera, etc which kill millions more every year. Governments dealing with COVID-19 should now look at loan agreements & renegotiate on basis of dealing with emergency because most of world is on standstill. That’s what corporate world is now doing. God Bless Zambia

    • You certainly can not compare Cholera (A bacteria disease) with a viral disease.Even if it was a virus, not all virus ravage the bodies the same way bwana.
      If you can learn anything from history is that the fast spreading but slow to kill viruses are the most deadly and harder to contain. Prevention is better than cure in such cases. For most viral infections, treatments can only help with symptoms while you wait for your immune system to fight off the virus. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections.

    • @Robin Mbeba, who told you that Italy has the best Health system in Europe? You’re seriously misinformed bro.

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  1. Ba Mwansa with all due respect stop hallucinating ,Zambia doesn’t have the capacity to curb this disease once it start spreading at a high rate ,rather prevent before it gets out of hand and the move to halt all school activities is one of the ways we can afford to stop the virus from spreading .

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    • I hope your PhD supervisor will read your shallow reasoning. The transmission dynamics of cholera ( a bacteria) are completely different from COVID 19 ( a virus). I will not be surprised to learn that Kabanda is PF because only they have problems with gray matter.

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    • The author has very valued points that must influence the way African governments react to issues, it doesnt mean, because ba Europe nabalanda, then every one should start dancing to their tune, let us learn to do it our own way because we have experience through Cholera and Ebola which are truely more deadly than this muzungu desease. Corona has a very low death rate that Cholera and Ebola, after all, only people with other deseases are vulnarable to die. Prevention niyamene, but we need to do it our way, and not just copying and pasting. I totally support the boarding schools idea especially. Well argued article.

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    • Obatala, lets be fair and reasonable, i think Mwansa is trying to expose the social inequalities that governments fail to address when such epidemics strike, usually governments advantage the rich on the expense of the poor, and if you really read this article, those are the issues its addressing. It doesnt matter the difference between a virus and a bacteria, both are diseases by a common man, and we should do things that suit us as Zambians, not the European way!!

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  2. This is when ZICTA can become useful; facilitate regulation that will provision online delivery of school work like most countries around the world shutting down for coronavirus are doing. Enough said. This idea that things will work by needling only must stop. Let’s get pragmatic.

  3. Just this has attracted political capital?
    The problem with “ black People “ all thinks that they are geniuses than the other.
    If the government didn’t take measures the same I’d.io.t would have condemning the government.

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  4. I haven’t read it all the way down but there are some valid points in there. Especially the fact that upto now our internet infrastructure is practically still in its infacy. If we had done due diligence, our kids would be having online classes. So this is rather a wake up, time to invest in internet infrastructure for the whole Country not just for the rich and affluent. Internet here costs K100 per year. Time to stop politricking and work like technocrats who actually implement solutions to buffer the economy both in good and bad time. That is what leadership means, to lead the flock to a better brighter destination otherwise what business do you have occupying those positions. However, Mwansa covid 19 is a beast, please retract your words. A lot of people have lost their lives to this…

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  5. I think this level of ignorance in this country is worrying. Please let us research before we post some of these articles. Covid-19 is a very fatal condition. It is a question of life and death.We cannot afford to use village philosophy even over serious issues. My dear author leave this subject to experts and comply before you become the first victim. Do not resist what you have not understood. Let us protect our children.Close schools for now.

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    • This virus isn’t as deadly as cholera or Ebola. And I think the author has brought a lot of valid points.
      Recovery rate from corona virus is 98 percent, and only people aged 70 and above are at risk.
      80 percent of people recover without any medication.
      Measures should have been taken by the government, but I am at pains to disagree with what the author has expounded here.
      Perhaps the consideration of how one infected individual may affect the country seeing as we may have a problem of how this would spread.

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    • Hold your fire #Mubanga. The author I think has a valued point here, Covid-19, what ever it is called has been over blown by the Western media, it is not as dangerous as our viruses including the HIV. It is just because it has directly affected the West, then it seems to be big. Cholera and Ebola are much more deadly, but since they have not affected the Western word in centuries, then they are down played. We have much more serious diseases in Zambia like mental illness that the government must invest a lot in it, but since the West have not “advitised” it, then it does not seem to be a problem of urgency.

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  6. I am surprised that a PHD student can reason in this manner. Mr PHD student the difference between cholera and Covid 19 is that the germs for the later are ‘super’ contagious cannot be controlled easily as cholera. The other reason is that its easier to clean the stomach which cholera affects by just taking fluids and insuring clean environments but not easy to clean the respiratory system affected by covid 19. I hope you do well in your analysis part of your research.

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    • Cholera survival rate 0.5%, Covid 19 survival rate 85. Which one is more deadly? Do not be scientifical for nothing, Mr PhD is trying to force goovernments to be a bit more pragmatic than just doing things because other coutries are doing the same. There is no panic to close schools now, especially in remote areas, it does not make sence at all, people are acting impulsely because the western media has reported.

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    • Cholera has a cure. Corona doesn’t have because it’s viral and we humans haven’t been very successful against viruses.

  7. Just look at developed nations that have closed schools, restaurants, bars, shops, waterways, banned gatherings and they have the capacity to contain such diseases but are lacking on this one. With all due respect Mr Mwansa, stop dreaming because this COVID-19 epidemic, is for real. Lets stop playing with people’s lives in the name of academic intelligence.

    • …..and that is exactly what the article is addressing, it doent mean if the developed nations took measures, then Zambia should take exaclty the same measures. We need home grown measures to suit our situation because we have experience of more serious epidemics and how to keep our selves safer. Its time we also sold our knowledge to the developed countries. The Government did not do any ground survey or consultations to find out the best solution but just acted because other countries closed schools, without finding out why other countries closed schools, and this this article exposes that i think.

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    • True Changwe. Most of us are panicking and are defeatist. We see the West as roundly superior so if something is bringing the bazungu to their knees we think we should also kneel. We do have experience in fighting epidemics. We should use that. The author’s boarding school example is sensible

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  8. This is very Shallow analysis coming from a PhD student!To say the least he cant even distinguish that cholera is bacterial disease and not Viral!He is right for one thing though…he values the importance of people being in school(which we all do anyway).

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  9. PhD research fellow ?!? What a plonker! Zambia has never succeeded in getting rid of cholera – people die every year. Zambia has no knowledge to export on this! Like someone already commented, I do hope your Mentor has read your article. You are dull, sit down!!!

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    • Zambia has the experience of fighting the epidemic. And This summer we haven’t had cholera. Isn’t that a plus?

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  10. This guy’s learning has only helped him or her to put a lot of words together, but has not learnt anything.

    He or she is speaking rubbish, mere idealism.

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  11. I would rather we talk about more serious issues than this matter. We have been having malaria which has been claiming lives in millions annually and everyone has been taking it as business as usual. What is so special with civid-19 which has a mortality rate of 2%! Let us discuss issues like: what has happened to mukula logs seized in Malaysia, 48 houses built by a ghost in Lusaka, fire tenders purchased at $1m each but insured at $250k each, overpriced ambulances, gassing where there is no credible information coming forth, burning of markets where up to now, we do not know culprits. If the same vigor and urgency being applied to Bill 10 was the same vigor and urgency being applied to these items, we will have resolved all these issues. Can we please know why Bill 10 is more urgent than…

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  12. Well articulated message Kabanda Mwansa, I have been following your articles on Lusaka Times, and I think I have liked your touch on speaking for the poor children, most of your articles have this reasoning about exposing the social inequalities presented by different social dynamics in Zambia. I know a lot of people might not see what you are trying to fight here, but we need more people of your courage and caliber. You are actually trying to help our government to be more practical and original without depending too much on foreign ideas!! Keep it up, and never be discouraged by the negative energies here. some people have not even read what you are trying to put across!

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  13. My fellow Zambians let us begin doing something now as individual citizens. As we observe what is happening in other COVID-19 hit places, we ask ourselves – what can I do to protect myself, my beloved ones, my neighbour and my Zambia? Schools have closed. Our kids are coming home. Where are they going to play? Bushe, nizajende ku club in the evenings/do I continue sharing a round of chibuku? The little we can do for a now is to start using face masks. Let make this a MUST. The needle work skills we got from school can turn that chitenge material/that “old skipper” into masks. 2020 IS A YEAR FOR MASKS. When our kids go out to play with masks, the masks reminds them that this no longer Life as Usual! The same will aplly when we see each other in masks.

  14. Already, 400 million puipils and students world wide are impacted by Covid-19, and affected institutions are busy working hard to find solutions. So, the question is what is the Zambian government working on to mitigate this problem? Have they just sent puipls home waiting for tommorow? Are we still waiting for London to give a guidance? Lets be serious, we need local solutions to address this!! #Re-open schools please!!

  15. My fellow Zambians let us begin doing something now as individual citizens. As we observe what is happening in other COVID-19 hit places, we ask ourselves – what can I do to protect myself, my beloved ones, my neighbour and my Zambia? Schools have closed. Our kids are coming home. Where are they going to play? Bushe, nizajende ku club in the evenings/do I continue sharing a round of chibuku? The little we can do for now is to start using face masks. Let us make this a MUST. The needle work skills we got from school can turn that chitenge material/that “old skipper” into masks. 2020 IS A YEAR FOR MASKS. When our kids go out to play with masks, the masks remind them that this is no longer Life as Usual! The same will apply when we see each other in masks.

  16. Ba Changwe cholera is epidemic whilst Covid-19 is a pandemic. With cholera we go about our duties but this one like I said its highly contagious and affects a victim’s respiratory system. If it catches one with low immunity or cd4 count their chances of surviving are quiet low. As we speak Italy deaths have surpassed China were this started from. Italy and France took the kind of your advice and see what is happening to them. China took measures like we are doing and since Wednesday there’s no new case in China. California has just directed everyone to be in doors. Is that where you want us to reach? Your government knows that they are broke and the measures they have taken are commendable.

    • AK, you have misunderstood the article, the author i think is advocating for the government to do more pragmatic measures than just copying what has been done by the West without understanding what is important for Zambia. The author is surely for the idea to completely closing the borders and not doing easy and cosmetic measures of closing schools. If the government was serious they should have shut the borders a long time ago when other countries did it. Closing schools when there is no domestic transmisiion is too cosmetic when real decisions should have been done earlier when politicians where busy in Chilubi, explains the author. Do not shooot her\him before you fully understand her\his arguments. I rest my case

    • I love Zambia, it’s because of learned morons. Education starts from home. One can be educated with or without tertiary formal education. Jesus and our freedom fighters were educated. PF and UPND are learned. The might have degrees, but no reasoning sense. Reason Africa suffers. We need to be shutting down schools and planning future education for all. Bo kabanda Mwansa and his article are useless.

  17. The editors should wade through articles before they are published and posted. This one definitely shows we shoot ourselves in the foot.

    I wish to reiterate what “The Worried” states. Government can only do so much for the public, in line with its responsibility. The onuous is on us, to allow the ” Mubangas” of this day with their “Permanent Head Damage” to mislead us with their OPINION cause after all this column is just an opinion shared by Lusaka Times. Or are we going to rely on tested facts that Government has implemented through SI 21 & 22.
    We need to distinguish fact from OPINION and remember that are you going to allow OPINIONS to guide and risk the lives of loved ones? Or facts!
    The facts are what has been reported in the press. What has happened in China, how they…

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    • Already, 400 million puipils and students world wide are impacted by Covid-19, and affected institutions are busy working hard to find solutions. So, the question is what is the Zambian government working on to mitigate this problem? Have they just sent puipls home waiting for tommorow? Are we still waiting for London to give a guidance? Lets be serious, we need local solutions to address this!! #Re-open schools please!!

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  18. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others. In such a connected world where most information is readily available, with evidence, how can people still seriously think COVID-19 is too far away from us? Do we need thousands of people to die within our borders for us to respect this disease?

  19. Is he a Medical Doctor, Scientist or Epidemiologist to give this analysis? While some of his opinions might make sense, Ill only take expert opinion serious on whats more deadly and whats the best way to handle it. Id rather over react and be alive, than under react and lose my life.

    Stay Safe everyone.

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    • He\she is a social commentetor, and the arguments makes sense, we need local solutions even if its a global problem. Ifyakukopela filanunka.

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  20. Cholera has a cure; covid19 does not even have a vaccine yet. This alone makes Mr. PHD Mwansa’s article mute. Let medical professionals and sensible minds speak on this issue. Zambia let alone Africa does not need misinformation.

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  21. Whoever wrote this crap must check himself or herself at chinama with immediate effect. Who reasons like this if not a mad person. This virus is deadly and is killing in thousands within a short period of time and you dare compare it with little cholera? Don’t make jokes on this platform shame on the writer.

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    • Already, 400 million puipils and students world wide are impacted by Covid-19, and affected institutions are busy working hard to find solutions. So, the question is what is the Zambian government working on to mitigate this problem? Have they just sent puipls home waiting for tommorow? Are we still waiting for London to give guidance? Lets be serious, we need local solutions to address this. I think that is the argument in this article if i have understood it. Dont send puipils home without solutions!!

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  22. He seem to suggest the whole thing has been over hyped as per African situation. He cannot be blamed much since Africa doesn’t have the technology for independent approaches to the demands of such plagues. There’s something one would commend somewhere about Ugandan researchers trying to put COVID into perspective.

  23. Kabanda,leave this problem to the big boys. You probably have some knowledge about infectious diseases, unfortunately this is not enough for you to comment on or inform public health policy in this instance.

  24. Imwe ba Lusaka times. You mean to tell me up to now you have not reallised that this is an innapropriate article. Pull it down please.

  25. The write has a valid point.. I have learnt 1 or 2 from the comments and here is my take..
    1.. closing of schools is too early. Only 2 infected. So far
    2. The 2 affected come from out side and so is in all African countries
    3. What govt should have done before reaching zambia is baring entry to Zambia from affected nation’s, China, Europe , America etc
    4.after baring.. come up with a proper mechanism of cupping it once detected..
    5. But since schools are already closed.. let’s stop people from affected countries coming in.. after 20 day if no new infections, open the schools.

  26. This article is not making sence if you read it in pieces, but makes a lot of sence if you read it as a whole!! Valued points indeed

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