Maputo — Just one of the 215 people on board the Lisbon-Maputo flight operated by the Portuguese airline TAP, which landed at Maputo International Airport on Sunday, has tested positive for the coronavirus which causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease, according to the National Director of Public Health, Rosa Marlene.
The flight had sparked off an extraordinary outburst of paranoid xenophobia on Mozambican social media, with some people calling it a "death flight", and suggesting it was a conspiracy against Mozambique by TAP and the Portuguese embassy in Maputo.
But the plane was carrying people who are entitled to return to Mozambique - namely 160 Mozambicans and 45 foreign residents in Mozambique (plus ten crew members). TAP broke no rules, since Maputo airport remains open to traffic and the flight was organized well in advance.
All people on board the plane were tested for the coronavirus and, regardless of the result, were told that they should go into quarantine for 14 days.
Speaking on Tuesday, at the Ministry of Health's daily press conference on the coronavirus crisis, Marlene said to date, 2,867 suspect cases have been tested, 269 of them in the previous 24 hours.
Of these cases, 217 were from Maputo city, including the 215 who had been on board the TAP flight. The other 52 samples were from the northern province of Cabo Delgado, and all were related to the investigation into the cluster of Covid-19 cases diagnosed at the camp on the Afungi Peninsula, operated by the French oil and gas company, Total.
268 of the cases tested were negative. The only person who tested positively for the coronavirus was one of those on board the flight. Marlene said he is a 46 year old Mozambican man. He showed no symptoms of Covid-19, and so he has been placed in home isolation. The health authorities are now tracing this man's contacts.
This pushes the number of coronavirus cases detected in Mozambique up by one, from 80 to 81. Nine of the cases are regarded as "imported", meaning that the people were infected outside Mozambique (mostly in Europe), while the other 72 are cases of local transmission.
Mozambique's key Covid-19 statistics, as of Tuesday, are thus: 81 positive cases, of which 19 have fully recovered, and 62 are considered active cases, and no deaths.
Marlene stressed that the TAP flight was "humanitarian in nature" with the main purpose of bringing home Mozambican citizens who had found themselves stranded in Portugal. It formed part of the government's actions "to protect and assist its citizens abroad".