Maputo — The Mozambican government announced on Tuesday that it is suspending the issuing of entry visas for visitors from China, a measure aimed at preventing the spread to Mozambique of the coronavirus epidemic.
Briefing reporters after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), the government spokesperson, Justice Minister Helena Kida, said that to date there have been no reports of any Mozambicans (in Mozambique or in China) infected with the coronavirus.
She said the suspension of entry visas is a preventive measure and did not know how long it would be in force.
The restriction goes both ways: not only will nobody leaving China be allowed into Mozambique, but Mozambicans will not be able to travel to China. Thus all travel between the two countries has effectively been suspended.
The measures approved by the government include the promotion of information about the disease, and how members of the public can protect themselves.
There are about 450 Mozambican students in China, 30 of them in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak originated. According to the general director of the Mozambican Scholarship Institute, Octavio de Jesus, none of the students have fallen ill.
He said he is in regular contact with the Mozambican embassy in Beijing in order to follow the situation of all the students, not only those in Wuhan.
Interviewed in Wednesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", de Jesus said "I have interacted with representatives of our student community, and I called for calm".
He had told them that evacuation of the students would be possible, but only as a last resort. "I made it clear that the embassy is not opposed to evacuation, but I reminded them that this would be the entire responsibility of the student".
He knew of one case of a Mozambican parent who wanted to evacuate his son from Wuhan. But this is impossible, since the Chinese authorities have put Wuhan on lockdown, determining that nobody can leave the city.
De Jesus said the students have been advised to follow to the letter all the recommendations and restrictions determined by the Chinese authorities.
The Health Ministry is checking on passengers arriving at all the main entry points to Mozambique, particularly anyone who has been in China. The checks consist mainly of taking the temperature of passengers: anyone running a fever might have been infected.
There are many coronaviruses, responsible for a wide range of ailments, from the common cold, to serious respiratory illnesses. The Wuhan coronavirus appears to be new, and may have jumped the species barrier between a wild host and humans.
As of Wednesday, the Chinese authorities had reported 5,974 cases so far. Some 80 cases have been reported outside China, bringing the total to over 6,000. The total number of confirmed deaths so far is 132, all in China.
The virus causes respiratory illness, and its main symptoms are fever, coughing and shortage of breath. These symptoms can appear up to 14 days after exposure to the virus.