Covid-19 spreads to Palma town neighbouring Mozambique LNG project


Four cases of covid-19 have been diagnosed among the local community in the Cabo Delgado town of Palma, which neighbours the LNG project led by French oil and gas company Total.

The cases were discovered through a programme of testing people showing covid-like symptoms in local health centres, which has started to reveal more positive cases across the country this week.

The LNG project on the Afungi peninsula, in the district of Palma, has been Mozambique’s biggest outbreak since the first case of a worker there was announced on 1 April. By 13 May 2020, 74 cases had been found in connection with the Afungi outbreak — making up 71% of all cases in Mozambique.

Non-essential work at the LNG project has been suspended since the outbreak started, but domestic workers — including cooks and cleaners — have still been going back and forth between the workers’ camps and Palma town, a subcontractor who had recently left the camp told Zitamar News on 24 April.

On 5 May, Total announced plans to support Mozambique’s covid-19 response, donating — along with its partners — five ventilators and ten infra-red thermometers to hospitals in Cabo Delgado province. Total also said it would provide an isolation tent for covid-19 patients at the Palma district hospital, and refurbish a ward for covid-19 patients in the provincial hospital in the city of Pemba.

The cases in Palma are three 29-year-old Mozambican men, and one 28-year-old Mozambican woman. Dr Sergio Chicumbe, national director of health research and observation at the National Health Institute, told a press conference on Thursday afternoon that it would be “speculation” to link the new cases to the Afungi outbreak. Total did not immediately respond to Zitamar’s question of whether they are, or live with, workers on the LNG project.

A further four cases were announced in the rest of Mozambique on Thursday. One was in the Afungi camp, two in Maputo City including an 18-month-old baby, and one in Inhambane, a five-year-old girl.

The National Health Institute conducted 373 tests over the last 24 hours. The eight new diagnoses bring the total confirmed in Mozambique to 115, of which 42 have fully recovered. None has died.

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