LUSAKA — Health minister Sylvia Masebo disclosed on Saturday that Zambia has detected three cases of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
Masebo said this is through samples from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last one week.
She said this at a media briefing in Lusaka on the update of the COVID-19 situation in the country.
“Zambia through our genomic sequencing laboratory at the UNZA School of Veterinary Medicine detected three (3) SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant isolates among samples from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last one week.
“Omicron is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 that the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated as a ‘variant of concern’ on 26 November 2021.
“This means it has potential for increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalisations or deaths), reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failure,” Masebo said.
She said all the three cases have been recorded in Lusaka Province.
“The three (3) cases of the Omicron variants in Zambia were detected in the following individuals: A man living in Lusaka district with a history of recent international travel. This fully vaccinated individual is in stable condition displaying mild ‘flu like’ symptoms and remains in isolation.
“A man who lives in Chibombo district with a history of recent international travel. He is currently asymptomatic and is self-isolating. This individual is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“A woman in Lusaka district who initially presented as an out-patient at one of our hospitals in Lusaka with mild ‘flu-like’ symptoms and was treated for COVID-19. She has no history of international travel and is unvaccinated for COVID-19,” Masebo said.
“Let’s support all our dear ones who are suffering from this terrible infection and avoid discriminating against them even as we continue to focus on heightened surveillance, contact tracing and genomic sequencing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more easily spread from person to person compared to other variants. The severity of disease following infection with the Omicron variant is yet to be understood.
“There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those associated with other variants. However, preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron as compared to other variants of concern, but information is limited.”
She said on a positive note, the current vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death.
“While further studies are underway to understand the potential impact of this variant on existing counter measures, it is clear that vaccines continue to play a critical role in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic,” Masebo said.
“The Omicron has been reported in many countries especially with the Southern Africa region leading to restriction and travel bans to many countries in Europe and the Americas.”
She said the National Heart Hospital will be the main COVID-19 Isolation Center.
Masebo however, said other designated facilities will continue to manage patients in their jurisdiction.