Covid-19-Related Deaths Force Zambia’s Parliament to Indefinitely Adjourn Ongoing Session

Zambia’s National Assembly has recently come under check, following reported positive cases of Covid-19 among staff and Members of Parliament. On July 15, 3 House Representatives and 10 National Assembly staff were reported to have tested positive for Covid-19, Clerk of the National Assembly of Zambia Ms. Cecilia Mbewe disclosed.

 

She stated in a statement that the cases were confirmed and that six non-staff tested positive at the National Assembly Clinic, bringing the total number of cases at the National Assembly Covid-19 Testing Centre to 19.

 

State-of-the art technology was installed at the Assembly premises to ensure Parliamentarians conducted their daily business while observing Covid-19 preventative guidelines such as physical distancing as stipulated by the Ministry of Health.

 

From the look of things, it seems the preventative measures were not tight enough.  As of Saturday July 18, a Member of Parliament died and the Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya confirmed that the death was because of Covid-19 infection.

 

Dr. Chitalu Chilufya disclosed that Mwansabombwe MP, Hon. Rodgers Mwewa had underlying conditions (Hypertension and Diabetes) and he contracted Covid-19, which precipitated his death.

 

“In this regard Covid-19 related deaths have risen to 128,” the Minister said.

 

Zambian MPs and Dignitaries pay last respects to MP Rodgers Mwewa (C) Lusaka Times

 

Prior to the death of Hon. Mwewa However, his counterpart Mwenya Munkonge, an Independent Parliamentarian representing the people of Lukashya Constituency had also died, although his death has not yet been confirmed as related to Covid-19.

 

It was in the backdrop of these unfortunate events that Zambia’s Vice President, Ms. Inonge Wina moved a motion Tuesday July 22 to adjourn the House, pursuant to Standing Order -33, Clause One of the National Assembly. She said the escalating cases of Covid-19 necessitated the adjournment of the House sine-die.

 

“That this House do place on record its deepest regret at the death of Mr. Mwenya Munkonge, Member of Parliament for Lukashya Parliamentary Constituency and Mr. Rodgers Mwewa, Member of Parliament for Mwansabombwe Parliamentary Constituency, together with its appreciation of their distinguished and patriotic service to the country and the people of Zambia, and that the deepest sympathies and condolences of the National Assembly be conveyed to their respective families…That, in accordance with Standing Order 33 (1) of the National Assembly of Zambia Standing Orders, 2016, and in view of the Corona virus disease, 2019, the House do now adjourn sine die’’.

 

Ms. Wina bewailed the increasing cases of Covid-19 cases despite the implementation of measures to combat the spread of the pandemic, urging Representatives to test for the virus before travelling to their constituencies following the adjournment of Parliament.

 

National Assembly reports indicate that this would be the second time Parliament is adjourning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The House adjourned on March 18, 2020 before resuming on June 9. 

 

In a statement to Parliament, Health Minister Dr. Chilufya disclosed that Covid-19 had nearly spread to all parts of the country.

 

“…the pandemic engulfed 44 districts in the country, 60 new Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours out of the 369 tests conducted…’’ he stated.

 

He has attributed the swelling numbers of Covid-19 cases to the severe cold weather and non-adherence to guidelines such as social distancing and wearing of masks.

 

As of July 21, the cumulative cases of the Coronavirus pandemic in Zambia Stood at 3,386 with cumulative deaths of one 128, with cumulative recoveries standing at 1,628 since the first case was reported on March 18, 2020.

 

Reacting to the rampaging advance of Covid-19 in Zambia, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection expressed worry that laxity on preventive measures in Zambia was gaining grounds at a time community transmission of the virus is steadily increasing.

 

In a statement availed to Timescape, JCTR Executive Director, Father Alex Muyebe notes that it was evident that people in the communities had prematurely dropped the guard.

 

“For instance, it is common these days to see large crowds of people in the communities moving up and about without wearing face masks.  Of great concern is the laxity on Covid-19 preventive measures in markets, bus stations, and in public service vehicles. This is a recipe for disaster.  We risk being overrun by the pandemic, which is silently infiltrating our communities’’.

 

Father Muyebe called on government and other stakeholders to aggressively step up community education on Covid-19. 

 

“Scale up screening and testing; resume daily detailed updates on COVID-19; put in place measures to enforce compliance to Covid-19 preventive measures especially in communities, in markets, bus stations and in public service vehicles; and prioritize public health interest over and above political interest. Together we can defeat COVID-19…’’ he urged.