, 17 January, 2021 / 2:00 PM
The leadership of the Zambia-based Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has expressed concerns about laxity in the implementation of the COVID-19 measures in the Southern African nation amid an upsurge in reported cases in the country.
In a Wednesday, January 13 statement obtained by ACI Africa, JCTR officials call on the country’s leadership to take the lead in enforcing COVID-19 preventive measures.
“When the first wave of COVID-19 hit Zambia in March 2020, we all scampered and took cover. Compliance to guidelines for fighting COVID-19 was at highest in the first three months. We soon developed familiarity with the virus as statistics played out in our favour with very few fatalities and very high numbers of recoveries,” the Jesuit scholars say.
However, they say, “complacency has since set in and we are now in harm’s way as COVID-19 has now resurfaced in Zambia with vengeance in a strain that is spreading more quickly and easily than the previous strains.”
The landlocked Southern African nation has been experiencing a rapid increase in new positive cases of COVID-19 since December.
On December 30, former Health Minister, Chitalu Chilufya, confirmed the upsurge in new reported positive cases and deaths as part of the second wave of the pandemic in the country.
In the January 13 statement signed by JCTR Executive Director, Fr. Alex Muyebe, the officials warn against the second wave of the pandemic saying, “The new coronavirus variant is not joking.”
“The second wave of the virus is severe and is thriving on complacency and acute disregard of the standard COVID-19 guidelines,” the Jesuit scholars say, adding that “unlike during the first wave of COVID-19 when we were accustomed to hearing of COVID-19 cases at a distance, this time around, most of us have now COVID-19 cases in our homes. COVID-19 is no longer remote statistics out there.”
“Most of us now know of family members and friends who have become victims of COVID-19. Some of us have even lost our beloved ones to COVID-19,” JCTR officials say.
Zambia has recorded 29,757 cases of the coronavirus including 500 deaths and 21,568 recoveries.
Insisting that the “safety and the lives of the Zambian people must be an all-time priority,” the leadership of the research institution calls on President Edgar Lungu-led government to put in place “robust measures to contain the spreading of this new strain of the virus.”
“We call for the full return and robust enforcement of the measures that were announced by the Head of State back in March and April last year,” they say, adding that the government must enforce wearing of masks in public places.
They also urge the government to “temporarily stop all public gatherings, including all political rallies of any shape or form.”
The JCTR officials further call on the Head of State to “consider putting a halt to visiting development projects because such visits inevitably draw crowds of people thereby endangering their health in this COVID-19 era.”
Last week, Catholic Bishops in Zambia expressed concerns about the upsurge in the reported COVID-19 cases and called on the people of God in the country to exercise vigilance and observe precautionary measures previously issued by various stakeholders.
“There is an escalation in both the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths,” the members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) said in their January 8 statement.
In their collective statement signed by the Director for Health in ZCCB, Bishop Patrick Chisanga, ZCCB members urged Zambians to “critically think about protecting yourselves and others.”
“It is the moral responsibility of everyone to ensure that Zambia does not plunge into the undesirable worst possible scenario,” said members of ZCCB.
The Bishops “strongly” advised all Zambians to follow the guidelines put in place by the Ministry of Health and the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) in order to protect themselves and their loved ones.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa