Mozambique: Pemba Mayor Closes Wimbe Beach

Maputo — The mayor of Pemba, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, Florete Simba, on Wednesday closed the city's major tourist attraction, Wimbe Beach, as part of the measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.

Even before President Filipe Nyusi declared a state of emergency, taking effect on 1 April, concerns had been raised about Wimbe. Despite the authorities' plea for social distancing, people continued to throng to Wimbe.

Photos appeared on social media of large crowds on the beach without the slightest attempt at social distancing. Now the mayor has reacted by simply closing the beach.

According to a report in the Maputo daily "Noticias", Simba also banned the activity of vendors who roam the streets and neighbourhoods of Pemba selling alcoholic drinks. He has closed down the city's informal markets, and suspended the activities of "moto-taxis" (motorbikes converted into taxis).

The mayor ordered the disinfection, once every three hours, of all buses and minibuses used for passenger transport. They are allowed to carry, at most, half the number of passengers for which they are licensed. To ensure that the transport operators are obeying these instructions, the City Council has set up inspection posts at three key points in the city.

These steps are broadly in line with the measures announced by the government on Thursday to implement the State of Emergency - although the government decreed that buses should only carry a third, not a half, of their passenger capacity.

In the southern city of Inhambane, owners of the minibuses on which much of the city relies for transport, have simply taken their vehicles off the roads rather than implement the rules on limiting the number of passengers they can carry.

36 seater buses are still circulating in Inhambane, but now they can carry no more than 12 passengers. The bus owners have reacted by hiking the fares. A bus ride from the centre of the city to Tofo beach should cost 22 meticais (about 33 US cents), but some buses are now charging 100 meticais.

Motorbike taxis are still operating in Inhambane, in defiance of the government, but could be closed down at any time.

On the opposite side of Inhambane Bay, in the city of Maxixe, there is no passenger transport at all. All road operators have ceased carrying passengers, either within the city or to other districts in Inhambane province.

To ease the ban on public religious services, the independent television station STV, has announced that it will be broadcasting Roman Catholic and Anglican services so that worshippers can follow them on their TV sets. This will last throughout the week from Sunday (Palm Sunday in the Christian liturgy) to Easter.

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