Open Letter to President Lungu: COVID-19 In Zambia

President Lungu

Dear President Lungu

I must first apologise for contacting you in this way, but I know no other way. The times are desperate.

I do not in anyway doubt that you are committed to leading the fight against Covid 19. So far, you have done whatever one can could do under the circumstances and I would like to commend you for that. From around 18 March to the end of June, the number of people who contracted Covid 19 was very small compared to most parts of the world and nearby South Africa. What is clear is that this disease does not respect persons. Two of our own ministers who were at the forefront telling the public to adhere to the guidelines the government had set out got infected. This should have sent a signal to all that the disease is subtle and one careless move by anyone can mean infection.

We now know that in up to 85% of people who are infected with the SARS-Cov-2 virus, only experience few or no symptoms at all. The remaining 15% are the ones who are most likely to seek medical attention. In the best healthcare systems and most well resourced countries in the world, up to 5% of those infected will be seriously ill needing intensive care support and at least 1% die. Under normal circumstances this would not be a big deal. What is a big deal concerning Covid is that it is highly infectious and less dangerous. What this means is that if left alone, it would infect the whole country in a matter of days. This is the danger. If 5% of the 17 million Zambians were to be seriously ill within a period of one month, they would need more than 800,000 hospital beds! Even as mild as the disease is, there would still be about 1 million people seeking medical attention over a very short period of time. There is no capacity in the Zambian healthcare system to cope with such numbers. There are not enough resources, including human resources to deal with such a tragedy. One should bear in mind that even healthcare personnel would also be ill, and even more than the general population as has been seen in many parts of the world.

I have painted a grim picture because the tide can change if we act now.

First and foremost, Your Excellency, you need to marshal your troops. This war needs people who are 100% committed and not distracted. I as a medical doctor, knows that there is so much we do not know about this disease, but there is also a lot that is being known every hour. The publications are mounting and no one can single handed keep track. In my opinion, I submit to you sir that the minister of Health must be moved to another less demanding ministry at this time when he is facing criminal charges in court. The minister cannot afford to be distracted at this crucial hour. It is actually for his own sake too that he be moved since you have refused to suspend or fire him. The Ministry of Health needs a leader who is fully committed. Furthermore, we need external financial help more than ever before in the ministry of health. Donors must have confidence that the money they give will reach the desired targets and not end up in someone’s pocket. When it comes to corruption perception is the name of the game. The ministry of health has not fared well when it comes to corruption over the last few years and having its minister in court on graft charges just strengthens suspicion and donors my count the cents they give.

Lastly, we must get help for more test kits. Testing must be made more widely available to every person who wants to be tested. We have now passed the phase where we test contacts only. We must roll out testing in every place where measures have been eased. What was done in Kafue should now be repeated country wide. I understand the need to keep the economy moving as much as possible. In order to do this, we may have to carry out local lockdowns like we did for Nakonde. People must be banned from leaving or entering hotspots for 14 days.

It is time to enforce the ban of mass gatherings. In this, I would suggest that you sir, lead by example. When it comes to political gatherings, it looks as though nothing has changed except for the face coverings by some. Let us bear in mind that the virus can also enter through the eyes from the hands so that in crowded places we may not wash our hands before touching our eyes even if we have a face covering. The WHO advises to avoid crowded places, especially in doors.

I believe that we still have a chance to beat Covid. No one has the monopoly of knowledge concerning how to deal with this pandemic, but we must all put our heads together and cast emotions aside but face the cold facts before us.

May God bless the Republic of Zambia.

Dr Charles Ngoma

(Former Vice President, Zambia Medical Association)


  1. You are preaching to the deaf.Imagine compromising our health for stupid Chilufya?Indeed how many donors are shying away from us?Anyway just as well coz even the money will end up in pabwato pockets…what a disgusting leadership…

  2. Good advice. Let Dr. Chilufya move to another ministry. You are not firing him or suspending him.

  3. Close fvcking parliament, hibernate that Inonge Wina, she the most valuable and vulnerable in society.
    If she dies, PF is to swallow worse bitter pill.

  4. Valid points Doctor Ngoma!
    We hope your advice is not in vain.
    The addressee is hard of hearing!
    He would rather listen to Bowman …

  5. Thank you doc for the insight on the potential effect of this pandemic if left unchecked. When our honourable 2 ministers were infected the opposition were in the fore front saying it is not true that they are infected. It such type of politicking in everything that has created a level of uncaring in the way we have conducted ourselves over the few weeks past. Because this politicking is from the so called leaders in waiting most people have laced in observing preventive measures. I don’t know these same people read this type of contribution, and if they do whether they can make sense out it. It pains me when people politic about public health matters. May God forgive you.

  6. The advice is landing on rocks and soon the birds of the air will wipe out the whole advice.

    They have diluted politics and covid-19.

    They are bunches of naked thieves exposed deadly disease which knows no status in society.

    Corona virus is real

  7. Thanks doctor, just check the usual indiscpline of Bowman gathering marketeers in Kitwe yesterday amid covid outbreak, even inconviniencing innocent motorists yestersday removing them off the road. I am PF but we should never allow such primitive moves, us as a ruling party. We should be leading by example. And he won’t be admonished because he is doing the dirty work for some people.

  8. Zambians, which one of you were PF or UPND when you were in your mother’s womb during the 9 months? I am sure each one of us was non-partisan. We should reach a point in life where we put country first. There are many wrong things PF who are in the driving seat are doing wrong which we should condemn whether we are PF or not! We should be ready to forsake political party lines when our national unity and survival is threatened. Can PF explain case 3 in the FIC report of terrorist activities in Zambia and what the have done about it! Is this foreign company the one we have given Gold shares? We need answers!

  9. Advising a rock is a waste of time. Just bow and pray that God removes the rock and clear the way so that we can have peace & hope. PF is not made up of leaders. It is made up of dangerous falling rocks.

  10. Very Clear and sensible letter,

    Zambia is currently facing two different serious pandemics i.e. Corruption and Covid-19. Efforts to fight the latter is in vain if the former is not actually dealt with.

    May the letter reach the intended audience.

  11. An open letter to the president is like a helpless cry which goes unheard. My opinion is that leaders and governments cannot directly protect citizens from getting infected, they can only provide the necessary remedies and preventive frameworks/guidelines. The major role should be played by the citizens who must exercise self-discipline and abide by the guidelines in order to stay healthy. Observe personal hygiene, stop going to crowded places and large family gatherings (funerals, weddings etc.) – the president can’t do that for you!

  12. Covid_19 survives in even temperatures of 4 degrees, it is winter in Zambia . Here in UK they predict a second spike and more deaths in the coming winter, stay safe and it is not a hoax

  13. Why apologise? The presidency is a public office and belongs to the whole Zambia so it can be addressed PUBLICLY. Its our office. If an electee gets angry with an open letter he shouldnt stand in the first place

  14. @ Nine Chale, you make valid points, but when the State makes a disease notifiable (Statutory Instrument 21 (2020)), it is declaring an interest in the prevention and management of that disease, The disease is no longer a private matter and the State now has the right to remove or suspend personal and individual liberties and freedoms. The classification of a notifiable disease means that personal responsibilities are not adequate to deal with the disease.

  15. Dr Ngoma, the other major cause of surge in Covid-19 cases is the reopening of bars. Despite officially being closed bars are operating at full capacity. And these bar owners are mostly PF inclined. Reports to have them closed have landed on deaf ears. When one is drunk they can’t practice all preventive measures required. And these bar patrons are bread winners who may die and leave their families languishing. Is it difficult for PF members who are bar owners to understand this? Is money more important that people’s lives? Is beer selling the only business these people can do? If so why not let their customers carry their beer home that patronising the bars.

  16. Wise and valid staff from the professions.Very good staff from Dr C.Ngoma but depends if PF are ready to hear and digest this information .Very difficult to advice and instill sense into these seasoned thieves. God bless zambia

  17. Let Dr. Chitalu be moved to Ministry or Religious Affairs to eat all the tithe and offerings through the Men of Gold

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