Lusaka – Zambian President Edgar Lungu has banned all political rallies as a COVID-19 control measure, three months ahead of a general election.
The Head of State and Government announced the ban in Lusaka on Wednesday as he officially launched his election campaign.
President Lungu directed the Zambia Police and the Ministry of Health to ensure they enforce the COVID-19 guidelines by banning political rallies. He highlighted the case last week where opposition political party UPND held a huge gathering as it concluded its internal nomination process as something that would be unacceptable going forward.
However, President Lungu’s political opponents said the decision was calculated to disadvantage the opposition, even though it also affects the ruling Patriotic Front.
This week, Zambia officially recorded its first case of the highly contagious Indian COVID-19 variant in a man who had recently travelled from the South Asian nation, the Health Ministry reported.
Secretary for Health Mr Kennedy Malama told reporters in the capital Lusaka that the 42-year-old was in quarantine. He noted that more than 6,000 people had been screened at points of entry nationwide this past week as the country remains on high alert not only for the Indian variant, but also for a possible third wave of the pandemic.
A total of 45 were denied entry into the country and 301 had to undergo mandatory testing, with 98 admitted to 14-day self-quarantine.
Mr Malama added that the country could encounter challenges in acquisition of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility due to increased demand in India.
“As a country we have made a decision to ring-fence the remaining doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for use as second dose for members of the public who have already received the first dose. We are actively engaging various stakeholders including African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, diplomatic channels, the private sector among others in line with Cabinet approval to mobilize more vaccines for our people,” he said.
In a country that has to date recorded more than 92,000 cases of COVID-19 infections, Zambia has administered over 120,000 first stage doses of the vaccine.