Maputo — 216 companies throughout Mozambique have notified the Labour Ministry that they are suspending or reducing their activities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, affecting 6,400 workers, according to the general inspector of labour, Joaquim Siuta.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference on Thursday, Siuta said these were only preliminary figures and he expected more companies to close their doors in the near future. "These figures will be updated in the next few days", he said. "By then, we believe there may be 7,000 people affected by the suspension of companies".
Siuta added that, under these circumstances, companies should pay their workers 75 per cent of their wages for the first month they were laid off, 50 per cent for the second month, and 25 per cent for the third month. This is nowhere near enough for most workers and their families to live on.
He categorically rejected the notion that the National Social Security Institute (INSS) should step in and pay wages to workers laid off because of the Covid-19 crisis. The INSS, he insisted, would only pay sickness benefit to workers with a hospital document proving they were ill.
Siuta thus dashed hopes that the INSS might cash in its investments in order to pay wages to workers who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
The National Director of Public Health, Rosa Marlene, told the press conference that to date the National Health Institute (INS) has tested 483 people suspected of carrying the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. 16 tests were held in the previous 24 hours and all were negative she said.
This means that Mozambique's Covid-19 statistics remain 17 confirmed cases, one of whom has made a full recovery, and no deaths.
The INS is now tracing the contacts of six citizens who were infected with Coronavirus at the camp of the French company Total, in the Afungi Peninsula, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Total has placed the camp under complete quarantine, and nobody can enter or leave without authorization from company executives.
The INS team that went to work in Afungi, alongside the Cabo Delgado Provincial Health Directorate, returned to Maputo on Thursday, a day later than expected. It was carrying samples from a further 11 suspected Covid-19 cases.
The INS deputy director, Eduardo Samo Gudo, announced that the samples are now being analysed and he hoped to announce the results on Friday.
He stressed the importance of contact tracing - the sooner the contacts of those infected in Afungi were identified, the easier it would be to break the chain of transmission.
Asked about the government's decision making it compulsory to wear face masks on any form of passenger transport, and in any grouping of people, Samo Gudo assured the reporters that the masks available in Mozambique are effective, but that on their own they are not enough to halt the spread of the disease.
"Masks can give a false sense of security", he warned, and were not a substitute for the other measures demanded by the health authorities and the government, such as frequent hand washing, and social distancing.