Maputo — The number of confirmed cases of the respiratory disease Covid-19 in Mozambique has risen from 10 to 17.
The National Director of Public Health, Rosa Marlene, said that, of the seven new cases diagnosed in the previous 24 hours, one had come from Portugal, where he is believed to have picked up the infection, and is currently living in Maputo.
The other six cases are all employees of the French company Total, working on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Palma district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Five of them are Mozambicans and the sixth is a foreigner (whose nationality was not revealed).
They are contacts of the man sometimes referred to as "case number ten" - a Total employee who was diagnosed with Covid-19 a week ago.
This man is currently under isolation in Maputo, but he had infected his co-workers while he was at a Total camp in the Afungi Peninsula, in Palma. Five of the Total workers who tested positive for Covid-19 are in Afungi, while the sixth is currently in Maputo
Immediately after "case number ten" was diagnosed, the health authorities sent a team from Maputo to work with the Cabo Delgado Provincial Health Directorate in tracing his contacts.
The General Director of the National Health Institute (INS), Illesh Jani, told the press conference they found 66, and all are now in isolation, if they tested positive for the disease, and in quarantine otherwise. 35 are in Afungi, 17 are in the cities of Maputo, Pemba and Nampula, while the other 14 are abroad, in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Britain and the United States. The INS had contacted the health authorities in those countries via the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Jani said the task now is to trace the contacts of the seven new cases, in an attempt to break the chain of transmission.
Marlene said the new cases were among 43 people tested in the previous 24 hours, the rest of whom were negative for Covid-19. Thus the Mozambican statistics for Covid-19 are now 17 positive cases, one of whom has made a full recovery, and no deaths.
Total, which collaborated with the health authorities' investigation, reacted to the test results by putting the whole Afungi site under quarantine. An announcement from the company said that only "critical activities" will continue, including medical evacuations, security and work on the Afungi airstrip.
"With a small number of exceptions, which will be granted by the Total Executive, everyone will be required to stay in their room", the company told its workers. "Meals will be delivered to you, and a educed laundry service will continue".
Total promised "to conduct widespread testing of personnel on-site as a precautionary measure, and to ensure any additional cases are identified and treated appropriately"
Nobody will be allowed to enter or leave the Afungi camp without authorisation from the Total Executive.
The company promised to continue working with the Health Ministry to trace contacts of the Total employees known to be infected.
A further 11 samples from Afungi were due to arrive at the INS laboratory in Maputo on Wednesday night, said Jani, promising to make the results public as soon as possible.
Asked about people admitted to health units suffering from pneumonia, Marlene said that for the past two weeks all patients suffering from serious respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, have been tested. None of them have been positive for Covid-19.