Maputo — For the first time since the Covid-19 crisis began, the Mozambican authorities have resorted to arresting a person who broke quarantine.
According to a report in the independent daily "O Pais", the case concerns a 21 year old woman, recently returned from South Africa, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 last Sunday, in Zavala district in the southern province of Inhambane.
All people diagnosed with the illness are ordered into home isolation, and are regularly visited by health workers. But this woman broke quarantine, and went to live with her boyfriend in Inharrime district.
The health authorities tried to track her down - initially without success, because the mobile phone number she gave them was not working. When the team went to her house she was not there and her mother had no idea where she was. However, an acquaintance recalled that she had a boyfriend in Inharrime.
The boyfriend was unwilling to cooperate, and so the health team had to involve the police. When the woman was located she was put into institutional isolation, quarantined in Quissico district hospital and guarded by the police.
This is the first time such an extreme measure has been necessary, since most people who test positive for Covid-19 cooperate willingly with the authorities.
While the woman was out of isolation, she had contact with at least 27 other people. The health team has collected samples from all of them, which will be tested in the laboratory of the National Health Institute (INS) in Marracuene, just outside Maputo.
Meanwhile, in the central city of Beira the police used dogs and water cannon on Tuesday evening to disperse crowds, who had gathered in various parts of the city in defiance of the state of emergency.
According to a report in the Maputo daily "Noticias", the police operation enjoyed the support, not only of the Sofala provincial government, but also of Beira Municipal Council, which is run by the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
Crowds had been gathering at formal and informal markets, without respecting social distancing, and with most people failing to wear masks. These are conditions believed to favour the spread of Covid-19.
The police action followed a meeting in Beira of the Public Health Emergency Operational Committee which decided that the authorities must move from the phase of persuasion to that of coercion.
The Secretary of State for the province, Stella Zeca said the preventive measures envisaged under the state of emergency must be observed, particularly now that eight cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed in Sofala.