Maputo mayor confirms he was Mozambique’s first Covid case

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Maputo mayor Eneas Comiche has confirmed that he was the first case of Covid-19 confirmed by the National Institute of Health (INS) — and criticised the INS for failing to inform him and his wife before they informed the public.

Speaking at Maputo City Hall this morning, Comiche said he and his wife had both now fully recovered, but called for “more humane treatment of those infected by Covid-19” by the health ministry. “It’s not correct that we are treated as numbers: ‘X more infected, of which Y recovered,’ without direct information to the person concerned, and without a word of advice. The citizen tested with Covid-19 has the right to be informed, first hand, of the results of the tests carried out.”

Comiche, a former finance minister and a member of Frelimo’s Political Commission, was informed of his positive status six days after he was tested on 20 March — and four days after the Ministry of Health had publicly announced, on 22 March, that the country’s first case concerned a Mozambican man of over 75 years of age, who had returned from travelling in the UK in mid-March.

His wife, Lúcia Comiche, was not given her test result for two weeks — by which time she had already tested negative on a later test, having recuperated from the disease. But by then, she had publicly identified herself as the second case announced by the Ministry of Health.

Eneas Comiche, who is 80, attended a conference in the UK in mid-March, along with Prince Albert of Monaco, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 on 19 March. The organisers of the conference, Wateraid, informed Comiche of this on 19 March, and by his own account he immediately isolated himself, and got tested for Covid-19 the following day.

The Ministry of Health’s announcement on 22 March led to speculation that Comiche was the first case, leading, he said today, to concern and “discomfort” among his family and the Maputo Municipality — and all those with whom he had been in contact following his return from London, including various members of Frelimo. Comiche is believed to have attended a meeting of the Political Commission in that time — a 19-strong body of Frelimo’s most senior members, chaired by President Filipe Nyusi.

On 23 March, having yet to receive the result of his test, Comiche took another test, along with his wife, who like him was showing symptoms of Covid-19. The Municipality made an announcement that day, saying that Comiche and the delegation that accompanied him to the UK are in home quarantine, and in full health.

The following evening, on 24 March, Comiche’s wife Lúcia called in to a live television show on STV to say that she was the country’s second case of Covid-19. Earlier that day, the Ministry of Health had announced the second and third cases — with the second being a Mozambican woman in her 70s who had been in contact with the first case.

According to his statement today, Eneas Comiche was informed by email by the INS late in the afternoon of 26 March, that he was positive for Covid-19. That day, he and his wife were admitted to ICOR, a private hospital in Maputo. The following day, 27 March, Comiche put out a statement through the Municipality saying that he and his wife had “not yet received any official information about our state of health.”

At a press conference this afternoon, Eduardo Samo Gudo, the head of the INS which analyses the tests at its laboratory in Marracuene, said normal flows of information do not apply under the current “situation of emergency”. The INS does not communicate directly with patients, he said, but with local health authorities. But in the current situation of emergency, “every piece of information informs a decision” — so the information has to be shared with the authorities as quickly as possible.

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