Ministry of Health Director of Infectious Disease Professor Llyod Mulenga says the country will not conduct community wide mass testing for COVID-19 as most people are not exhibiting symptoms.
Prof. Mulenga stated that the highly transmissible Omicron sub-variant XBB1.5 has not been detected in the country, and it is therefore not necessary to undertake community mass testing.
“The Ministry is presently placing a focus on testing for people who are showing some symptoms and those who are in health facilities,” he said
And Prof. Mulenga explained that there are sufficient stocks on handful both polymerase chain reaction testing and rapid testing for anyone who visits a facility with symptoms of the virus.
The increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths across the country has been attributed to a new sub-variant of the Omicron Corona Virus called XBB.
“We are still not doing mass testing, as you know the Omicron variant is one of the widely spread and also highly stransmiseable virus and this variant which we have recorded the XBB is also highly transmissible, we have not recorded the XBB1.5 which is very highly transmissible and seculating in Europe, parts of Asia, and also in America, we have not recorded that one which is very highly transmissible, but we have recorded the XBB that has its own sub lining,” he said
“And as a result, its not advisable now to go out and test everybody because we know that the exposures are there but we are emphasizing now, is testing those who are getting sick and those who are already in health facilities, we have adequate stocks available for rapid testing for everyone who visits the health facilities and those with symptoms, and for those who may need to do CR testing, we also have adequate stocks for doing CR Testing, we can comfortably say that we have enough stocks that can reach upto 3 to 4 months for rapid testing but we are just not going to conduct mass testing in various communities,” he added
The COVID-19 pandemic remains a major threat to global health security. In the first week of 2023, close to 3 million cases and over 11,000 deaths have been reported around the world. In the same period the African region recorded over 4,500 cases and eight (8) deaths. The current prevailing COVID 19 cases are reportedly driven by a sub-variant of the Omicron virus which is now called XBB. As you may recall, the COVID-19 virus keeps generating new forms of itself as it continues to multiply across the globe. Similar to the Omicron virus, the XBB is said to have a high ability to pass from one person to another; and here in Zambia we have confirmed that the current increase in the number of cases we are seeing is driven by this XBB.
Locally, there has been a steady increase seen in the number of daily new cases, the test positivity rate and geographical spread of COVID-19 in terms of affected districts. The country is also experiencing an increase in the rate of hospitalisations and mortality COVID-19 therefore remains a stark reality in the country and the world over.
The Ministry of Health and its health security wing, the Zambia National Public Health institute are working hard to ensure that the Zambian people are protected from COVID-19.
The Ministry has since instituted measures that will help to curb the widespread of COVID-19 in the country, such as strengthened community and facility surveillance to ensure prompt identification and reporting of cases, Intensified testing including expanding national capacity for genomic surveillance to determine which COVID-19 variants are circulating in the country, Enhanced case management including the initiation of test and treat services. This involves the use of the new oral drugs we introduced before the end of the year. Re-training of health care workers on COVID-19 management is also underway as you know as the virus changes even some treatment models also change, The provision of COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots as required.
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