Parliament open to considering new bill to block movement in Mozambique


If the Mozambique government wants to limit travel within the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus it will need to go back to parliament with a new bill, the chair of the parliament’s constitutional affairs commission has said.

Before approving the state of emergency bill last Tuesday evening, parliament amended it to only allow the government to limit travel within the country once Mozambique is registering exponential growth in the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19.

But waiting for exponential growth before limiting movement in the country, would mean it is already be too late to contain the virus. “Once you’re recording exponential growth — and given that there will be a lot more positive cases than are officially recorded — you’ve already lost control,” said one Cambridge University scientist who has worked in Mozambique.

Antonio Boene, the Frelimo deputy who chairs parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Commission, admitted to Zitamar on Friday that “the bill appeared suddenly. We’re still trying to understand it better; there could be the need for a revision.” If so, he said, “the government would submit a new proposal to the Assembleia da República.”

Mozambique has not discovered any new cases since April 1, when the number of cases rose to 10. One of the new cases that day was a Mozambican working for the French oil company Total on the LNG project in Afungi. As he had not travelled abroad recently, the health authorities concluded he had contracted Covid-19 in the country. Nevertheless, and despite efforts to trace people that the man had been in contact with, no more cases had been discovered by the afternoon of Sunday, 5 April.

In order to get to an exponential increase in cases — where cases repeatedly double over a set time period — Mozambique would need to increase its rate of testing, Boene conceded. It is currently carrying out around 20 tests per day.

“No one has any idea how many cases Mozambique has now, but if we assume Mozambique has 100 cases now and the same infection rate as [South Africa], then exponential growth would be to 200 cases in 4 days, 400 cases in 8 days, 800 cases in 12 days, 1600 cases in 16 days, and so on. That quickly exceeds Mozambique’s testing capacity,” wrote Joseph Hanlon of the London School of Economics in his Mozambique newsletter on Saturday.

Announcing the new measures on Friday, Justice Minister Helena Kida suggested that the government may still move to limit travel — despite attempts by parliament to prevent it. “Let’s imagine in one province, where in one district there’s an outbreak of the pandemic, naturally measures will be taken to avoid people from this district circulating outside, or the entry of others” into that district. “Of course, this would be limiting the circulation of people,” she said.

Obligatory quarantine

Obligatory quarantine will be imposed on people who have entered the country in the last 14 days, and can be imposed on anyone else at the discretion of the health authorities. The authorities can keep track of the movements of quarantined people through their mobile phone, Kida said, to ensure they are complying.

There should not be more than 20 people in any workplace, and a maximum of one third of staff should be physically at work at any one time, swapping with colleagues every 15 days. Where possible, people should work from home — and nobody should lose their job due to the crisis, she said.

People will not be allowed to enter the country during the state of emergency, which runs until the end of April. No identification documents or visas will be issued, and those that expire will remain valid until 30 June.

Church services and sports, parties, and other events are prohibited. Discos, bars dedicated to selling alcohol, gyms, public swimming pools, museums, libraries, theatres, sports fields, monuments, and other public places, including beaches, must close.

Formal markets can be open from 6am to 5pm. Bicycle and motorcycle taxis, including ‘txopelas’ or ‘tuk-tuks’, are forbidden as it is impossible to have a 1 meter separation between the driver and the client.

Funerals continue but can have a maximum of 20 participants. If the cause of death is Covid-19, then only 10 people can attend the funeral. In both cases, masks must be worn. 

Visits to hospitals should be made by a maximum of two people, and no one can visit patients hospitalised with coronavirus. It is also forbidden to visit people who are in jail, but meals can still be delivered.

The government gazette with the full list of restrictions can be seen here

Joseph Hanlon’s newsletter, with a good summary in English, is here

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