Skip to content
Key findings
  • Three in 10 Zambians (30%) say a member of their household lost a job, business, or primary source of income due to the pandemic, while 9% report that someone in their household became ill with COVID-19 or tested positive for the virus.
  • Almost seven in 10 Zambians (69%) say they received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19.
  • Two in 10 citizens (22%) say they are not likely to try to get vaccinated, including 18% who consider it “very unlikely.”
  • Citizens who say they are unlikely to get vaccinated cite a variety of reasons for their hesitancy, including doubts about vaccine safety (19%), worries about getting a counterfeit vaccine (16%), and fear of bad side effects (13%).
  • More than six in 10 Zambians (62%) say they trust the government “somewhat” (23%) or “a lot” (39%) to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Almost nine in 10 Zambians (87%) say the government has performed “fairly well” or “very well” in managing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Specifically, three-fourths are satisfied with the government’s efforts to ensure that health facilities are adequately resourced (75%) and to minimise disruptions to children’s education (75%).
  • But about seven in 10 respondents (69%) believe that COVID-19 relief assistance was distributed unfairly, and 68% think “some” or “a lot” of the resources intended for the pandemic response were lost to corruption.
  • Six in 10 citizens (60%) approve of using the police or military to enforce public health mandates during a pandemic. However, majorities consider it unjustified to postpone elections (61%) or to censor media reporting (56%) in response to a public health emergency.
  • Most Zambians (73%) believe that the government is prepared to deal with future public health emergencies.
  • They are evenly divided on whether the government needs to invest more in preparations for future health emergencies if it means fewer resources are available for other health services.

In Zambia, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on 18 March 2020. As of 24 December 2023, the country had recorded 349,304 cases of COVID-19 with 4,069 deaths (World Health Organization, 2023). In response to the pandemic, the government closed all schools and universities, restaurants (except on a take-away basis), nightclubs, cinemas, casinos, and gyms; limited public gatherings to fewer than 50 people; suspended international flights except to and from Lusaka; placed travellers entering the country under quarantine; and ordered mandatory mask-wearing in public (Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council, 2020; United Nations, 2020; United Nations Development Programme, 2020). The government also launched a mass vaccination campaign that resulted in 70% of eligible citizens being fully or partially vaccinated as of early November 2022 (U.S Mission Zambia, 2022).

Measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 weakened the Zambian economy, which was already in a delicate state before the pandemic. Job losses and economic contraction pushed the country into a deep recession in 2020 from which it rebounded in 2021 before slowing again due to the war in Ukraine (International Labour Organization, 2021; Chibwili, 2021; African Export-Import Bank, 2023). Government measures to lessen the economic impacts of the pandemic focused mainly on easing liquidity and providing tax relief for the mining sector, forgoing neighbouring countries’ provision of support such as subsidised water and electricity supply, free food, and flexible loans for small businesses (United Nations Development Programme, 2020).

Findings from the latest Afrobarometer survey confirm the pandemic’s economic impact, with more than a quarter of Zambians saying that a household member lost a job or primary source of income due to COVID-19.

Overall, most Zambians are satisfied with the government’s response to the pandemic and report compliance with its vaccination campaign. However, they are less positive about the government’s relief efforts, and many believe that COVID-19 resources were lost due to corruption.

Most Zambians believe that their government is adequately prepared for future health emergencies.

Edward Chibwili

Edward Chibwili is the national investigator for Zambia.