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LUBANSENSHI electorates queue up to vote at the Council Nursery. PICTURE: MACKSON WASAMUNU

Stop endangering electorate

WITH Zambia being rated among the top 10 countries in Africa in terms of the high number of COVID-19 patients recorded daily, it is high time that every citizen woke up to reality and took precautions. According to the Ministry of Health, Zambia is among Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa, which top the list with a cumulative number of 1.6 million including 56,170 deaths.
Given this picture, people should not wait to be afflicted by the virus for them to accept that COVID is real and it is claiming many lives.
The election period we are in calls for rational thinking over the matter among all political players failure to which we will be digging our own graves.
As the saying goes, it is better to prevent than to cure. Being in denial about the existence of the virus in our midst will never help change the reality of the deadly coronavirus. It is sad that some political leaders are discrediting President Edgar Lungu’s directive that political parties should not hold rallies in view of a surge in COVID cases. If political leaders remain divided over the matter, the citizenry will suffer the consequences and put the whole programme to fight COVID in disarray. Zambia is on the threshold of a third wave of COVID-19, more so that we are in the cold season.
Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for technical services Kennedy Malama said the evolution of the pandemic clearly shows that there is need for people to brace themselves for a possible third wave. In the last 24 hours preceding yesterday the country recorded 483 cases out of 6,392 tests conducted with the total number standing at 94,430. The latest figure of new patients underscores the need for all political parties to play their part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 during their political campaigns especially that we are in the cold season. According to health experts, infections caused by many respiratory viruses, including influenza and some coronaviruses, get worse in the cold season and drop in the hot season.
“The super-spreader events continue to be a high source of concern to the COVID-19 multispectral response. We urge all those intending to hold social gatherings to postpone these events or use virtual platforms considering the increasing number of cases we are recording most of which seem to be fuelled by such gatherings,” Dr Malama said. Political parties cannot afford to keep ignoring expert advice on how to campaign amidst the spread of COVID-19. Health, being one of their priority areas in the manifestos, should be given the attention it deserves even at this stage when the country is grappling with the pandemic. It would be hypocritical for any candidate to talk about how they value health during campaigns when on the other hand they are refusing to adhere to COVID-19 health regulations. In fact, the decision each political party makes now on COVID preventive measures will provide the basis on which they value people’s lives. We urge all stakeholders to listen to health advice by the Ministry of Health to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Failure to adhere to health guidelines would also complicate the vaccination programme in the country as most sources of vaccines overseas are choosing to keep it for their citizens as cases swell. Already, India, where Zambia sourced the AstraZeneca vaccine, has 27,655,385 total cases with 320,264 deaths. There are lessons to learn from India, where it is believed most COVID-19 cases increased after that country held state elections this year. India’s geographical location and population may differ from that of Zambia, but the aggravating factor of COVID-19 points to one thing: social gatherings during campaigns. Another related lesson is that Zambia can learn from the 2020 USA elections.
One candidate, Joe Biden, chose to cancel physical rallies as guided by health experts, and still reached the electorate through virtual rallies.
His rival, the then incumbent President, Donald Trump, largely ignored health advice. He encouraged physical mass rallies. Some of his supporters wisely stayed away. Two weeks after a particular rally in Tulsa, the county reportedly experienced a surge in coronavirus cases. Health officials said Trump’s rally contributed to the spike. Despite all this insistence by Trump to interact with the masses, we all know that Biden impressed the electorate more and he now sits in the White House. So stop using the electorate as guinea pigs or stepping stones. Use other means of canvassing for votes instead of risking the lives of the same people you claim to want to serve.