Coronavirus epidemic steps up in Mozambique as most provinces now infected

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Mozambique discovered 36 new coronavirus “transmission chains” last week, shifting the official definition of the stage of the pandemic in Mozambique and raising the possibility that the country is on the cusp of experiencing “community transmission” — where it is impossible to know how an outbreak started.

A further 18 cases were announced over the weekend, bringing the total diagnoses of covid-19 in Mozambique to 137. Of the ten announced on Saturday, four were recent returnees from South Africa: two in Maputo City, and two in Sofala province, in the districts of Chibabava and Buzi. On Sunday, three more returnees tested positive.

Two cases were found among those who had arrived last Monday on an Ethiopian Airways flight from Addis Ababa: one in Boane, Maputo Province, and another who is now in home quarantine in Xai-Xai, Gaza. The weekend also saw the first positive tests in the provinces of Tete and Manica, and another in the town of Palma, Cabo Delgado. Three more were found in the LNG workers’ camps in Afungi, Palma district. One case was diagnosed in Matola, the country’s most populous city, of a worker at a branch of the country’s largest commercial bank, Millennium-BIM. The bank branch has now been closed for disinfection, and all the worker’s contacts are being traced, AIM reported.

Taking into account the cases found last week in Inhambane province, only three of Mozambique’s 11 provinces are now covid-free: Niassa, Nampula, and Zambezia.

Dr Ilesh Jani, director-general of the National Health Institute, said the last week had turned up 36 new chains of transmission — versus 11 the previous week, which had all been linked to the Afungi outbreak.

The new chains are being investigated and could still all be linked to existing chains, such as that in Afungi. Nevertheless, the World Health Organisation has removed Mozambique from the category of ‘epidemic with sporadic cases’, to ‘epidemic with foci of transmission’ — an intermediate phase before ‘community transmission’.

“The window of opportunity to avoid community transmission still exists, but it is not permanent,” he said. “We need to intensify preventive measures to avoid the worst.”

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