Zambia on Friday announced the complete lifting of coronavirus restrictions from the weekend, although just three percent of eligible people in the southern African country are fully vaccinated.
“Following the reduced transmission of COVID-19 in Zambia, the government has decided to lift the restrictions,” Health Minister Sylvia Masebo said.
Restrictions on gatherings in venues like places of worship and bars have been in place since last year in Zambia, a poor, landlocked country of 18 million people.
So far there have been over 209,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,650 deaths, with one in the past 24 hours.
From Saturday, there will be no limits on the size of religious gatherings, while bars, markets, shops and nightclubs can all operate as normal and everyone can go back to work, Masebo said.
The lifting of the restrictions will be re-examined after one month, she added.
For now, mask-wearing, social distancing and regular disinfection of public spaces will be kept in place.
Masebo also warned that Zambia could suffer large numbers of seriously ill people and deaths in a fourth coronavirus wave, given low levels of inoculation.
“If indeed the projected fourth wave will be worse than the third, our low vaccination coverage puts us at a higher risk of severe disease and death. Let us all take advantage of the available vaccines and get vaccinated,” she added.
President Hakainde Hichilema on Thursday urged citizens to get vaccinated, saying that he, his wife and his children had all received two-dose courses.
The country has been distributing Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm shots.
Across Africa, just over four percent of eligible people have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, far behind the rates above 60 percent seen in the world’s wealthy nations.