Maputo — The Mozambican Health Ministry announced on Wednesday that a further 14 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease, pushing the total number of known coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic to 227.
Speaking in Maputo, at the daily press conference on the Covid-19 situation, the National Director of Public Health, Rosa Marlene, said that so far 9.330 suspected Covid-19 cases have been tested, 294 of them in the previous 24 hours.
117 of the samples tested came from the northern province of Cabo Delgado, 83 from Maputo City, 30 from Inhambane, 29 from Nampula, 19 from Manica and 16 from Maputo province.
Of the cases tested, 280 were negative, and 14 were positive for Covid-19. All are Mozambicans. One is asymptomatic, and 13 display mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19.
The majority of these cases - 12 - were from Cabo Delgado. They include two girls and five women from the provincial capital, Pemba. The girls are under five years of age, while the age of the women varies from 25 to 59. Four men from Pemba were also diagnosed with coronavirus - two are in the 35-44 age bracket, one is in the 45-19 year age group, and one is aged over 60.
The final Cabo Delgado case is a woman, in the 25-34 year age group, in the district of Namuno, which has not previously reported any coronavirus cases.
Two people from Nampula city tested positive. One was a boy in the 5-14 age group and the other a man, in the 35-44 year group. This brings the number of known cases in Nampula to ten.
In both Cabo Delgado and Nampula, it is not yet known whether the new cases have any connection with people who tested positive previously.
Marlene said the 14 new cases are all undergoing home isolation, and the health authorities are tracing their contacts.
The distribution by province of the 227 positive cases, as of Wednesday, is as follows: Cabo Delgado, 128; Maputo City, 43; Maputo province, 22; Sofala, 12; Nampula, 10; Tete, three; Inhambane, three; Gaza, three; Zambezia, two; Manica, one.
163 (72 per cent) of the positive cases are men and 64 (28 per cent) are women. 179 (79 per cent) are Mozambican, and 48 (21 per cent) are foreigners.
The key Covid-19 statistics for Mozambique are now: 227 positive cases, of whom 71 have made a full recovery, one has died, one is hospitalised, and there are 154 active cases.
The deputy general director of the National Health Institute (INS), Eduardo Samo Gudo, told the reporters that Mozambique will participate, with about 40 other countries, in clinical tests of potential vaccines against Covid-19.
With new cases discovered in provinces which a couple of weeks ago had no known cases at all (such as Nampula and Zambezia), the country is facing an increased number of chains of transmission. Samo Gudo stressed the importance of breaking these chains as soon as possible.
"The later the chains of transmission are located, the more complex will be the process of following them up", he said.
An expansion of testing is key to the government's strategy of targeted testing, contact tracing, and immediate isolation of all positive cases. A major limitation has been that at first testing could only be undertaken at the INS laboratory in Marracuene, just outside Maputo. This situation has begun to change: testing can also now be undertaken by the biotechnology department of the Eduardo Mondlane University, and by a couple of private laboratories, also in Maputo.
But on Wednesday, Health Minister Armindo Tiago told the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, that testing will be decentralised as from June. In June, the necessary reagents should arrive in the country, allowing testing in Sofala, Zambezia, Tete, Nampula and Cabo Delgado.
Tiago promised that the government plans to ensure that testing can be expanded so that it will eventually cover all provinces.