Maputo — Health staff have diagnosed dozens of cases of the Covid-19 respiratory disease in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, so that Nampula is now the province with the second largest number of cases.
Speaking on Tuesday, at the Health Ministry's daily press conference on the Covid-19 situation, the National Director of Public Health, Rosa Marlene, said that to date 11,239 people have been tested for Covid-19, 269 of them in the previous 24 hours.
120 of the samples tested were from Nampula, and there were also 81 from Maputo Province, 51 from Maputo City, 10 from Zambezia, six from Sofala and one from Cabo Delgado.
216 of these cases proved negative, but 53 tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, and the great majority of these cases were from Nampula.
38 of these new cases are from the provincial capital, Nampula city. These include four girls and two boys under the age of 15. The rest are 22 adult men and 10 adult women. There were also nine positive cases - five women and four men - from the district of Mogovolas. Less than a fortnight ago no Covid-19 cases at all had been diagnosed in Nampula.
Some of the new cases were discovered thanks to diligent tracing of the contacts of people diagnosed as positive in late May. This was the case with all nine new cases from Mogovolas, and for eight of those in Nampula city. These form part of two transmission chains that can be traced back to cases diagnosed in May.
That leaves 30 cases in Nampula city who are not known contacts of other positive cases. The Ministry of Health admits that it does not yet know how many new transmission chains these cases represent.
As for the other new cases, three are women from Maputo city, two are men from Maputo province, and one is a man from Palma district in Cabo Delgado. There is now a clear cluster of cases centred on Palma town, and Marlene was confident that these cases are quite separate from the largest cluster discovered so far, at the camp run by the French oil and gas company Total on the Afungi Peninsua. Although Afungi is in Palma district, health specialists have not yet found a clear link between the cases in Palma town and the Afungi cluster.
All the new cases announced by Marlene are Mozambican citizens. 17 are asymptomatic, and 36 show mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19.
All have been instructed to go into home isolation, and health staff are now tracing their contacts.
"The local teams are working intensely on tracing the contacts", said the deputy director of the National Health Institute (INS), Eduardo Samo Gudo. "Nampula is one of the provinces to which the health authorities are paying special attention".
This is not simply because Nampula is the most populous province in the country, but because it has the highest rate of positive cases (that is, the number of positive cases expressed as a percentage of the number of people tested).
INS general director Ilesh Gani has gone to Nampula to work with the local authorities and strengthen measures to control the outbreak. This, said Samo Gudo, includes "expanding active surveillance" (which means checking people showing signs of respiratory illness), boosting hygiene and sanitation measures in the province, and "strengthening the local surveillance teams with professionals from the central level".
Asked if there is any relationship between the Nampula cases and those in the neighbouring province of Cabo Delgado, Samo Gudo said it was too early to draw any conclusions, and more research is needed.
Marlene also announced that one more Covid-19 patient has made a full recovery. He is a Mozambican man in Inhambane province, who remained in home isolation until the infection ended. In all, 98 people have so far recovered from Covid-19.
A breakdown of known cases up until Tuesday by province gives the following results: Cabo Delgado, 146; Nampula, 61; Maputo City, 52; Maputo Province, 22; Sofala, 12; Tete, four; Inhambane, three; Gaza, three; Zambezia, two; Manica, one; Niassa, one.
The key Covid-19 statistics for Mozambique are now: 307 confimed cases, of whom 98 have made a full recovery. One patient (in Inhambane) is still hospitalised , but is said to be making good progress, and there have been three deaths. Two of these patients died of Covid-19, while the third fell victim to another, unrelated pathology.
Marlene insisted on the need for all citizens to comply with the restrictive measures imposed by the government under the current state of emergency. Anyone returning from abroad must go into a 14 day period of home quarantine. Everyone, except children under the age of two, should wear masks in public places. Social distancing should be practiced, ensuring a distance of 1.5 metres between one person and the next.
All citizens, she stressed, should stay at home, if they are not working, and should avoid all unnecessary travel.
"The detection of new chains of transmission in places where they did not exist previously, and the existence of cases for which the chain of transmission is unknown means that the country is in imminent danger of entering a phase of community transmission", warned Marlene.
The disease in Mozambique is still at the stage of an epidemic with local foci of transmission. If the country slumps into community transmission, the disease will run out of control, with many more cases, including serious ones, putting the health system under great strain.