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POLLS IN DANGER,COVID 3RD WAVE IS HERE

By GIDEON NYENDWA and IRVIN MUYUMBWA

Zambia among top 5 African countries with most infections. ZAMBIA could go into lockdown leading to suspension of elections as a consequence of heightened non adherence to Public Health measures during election period, the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) and the Electoral Commission of Zambia have warned.

The grim warning comes from ZNPHI Director Professor Victor Mukonka, who also said increased cases, admissions, disability and deaths may lead to stringent restrictions including lockdown, disaster declaration and  suspension of elections.

And the  Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has hinted on the possibility of the August 12 general elections being called off, should the confirmed third wave Covid-19 cases continue to spike. ECZ Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano said yesterday that a spike in cases would result in the country having a state of emergency and call off elections.

Addressing political parties contesting the August polls at a meeting held in Lusaka yesterday, Mr Nshindano advised players that the commission does not ban but discourage the holding of campaign rallies as further spike in cases could cripple the elections if the pandemic remains uncontrolled.

“The matter at hand is not a joking matter, it is a serious issue which will not only cripple your elections if this pandemic is not controlled because there is a possibility that if this becomes uncontrollable, the state of emergency can be imposed and we will not be able to conduct elections” Mr Nshindano said.

Professor Victor Mukonka, said all this would lead to extensive strain and possible collapse of  health systems, loss of livelihood and economy.

Prof Mukonka also revealed that the country has  now entered the third wave of Covid-19 with the number of infections currently fifth across the continent.

Prof Mukonka said in the last 24 hours, 742 Covid infections were recorded, with the country now seeing a generalised geographical outbreak.

Prof Mukonka said in the last 24 hours, 157 people have been admitted to isolation facilities and two deaths recorded while 70 percent of those in admission require oxygen support. He said what the country was now dealing with is a dangerous pathogen with the variant predominant similar to that prevailing in South Africa, the United Kingdom and India.

Prof Mukonka was speaking during a presentation at an engagement meeting with participating political parties in this year’s general election organised by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) yesterday, where he also called on the political leadership to have campaigns in very safe environments.

Meanwhile, the ECZ has warned that it will ensure strict implementation of the electoral code of conduct during campaigns and anyone found in breach will be sanctioned accordingly.

ECZ chairperson Justice Esau Chulu said the code of conduct which is part of the Electoral Processes Act number 35 of 2016 provides guidance to the various players in the electoral process on their conduct during campaigns and elections which all stakeholders must familiarise themselves with to avoid being found wanting.

Mr Nshindano pleaded with political parties to work with the commission using alternative modes of campaigns, with leaders taking responsibility.

He said because of the spike in covid-19 cases, parties should  promote alternative means of reaching out to the people as a measure to reduce the chances of spreading the virus further.

Mr Nshindano reminded political parties that they are duty bound to protect the people whom they want to serve after the general elections.

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