Maputo — The Mozambican health authorities on Thursday registered a further 36 positive cases of the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease, raising the total number of people infected in the country since the start of the pandemic to 352.
Speaking in Maputo at the daily Health Ministry press conference on the Covid-19 crisis, the National Director of Public Health, Rosa Marleyn, said that so far 12,096 suspect cases have been tested in Mozambique, 529 of them in the previous 24 hours.
170 of the samples tested came from Maputo city, 137 from Maputo province, 83 from Cabo Delgado, 69 from Nampula, 31 from Tete, 26 from Niassa, 10 from Gaza, and three from Zambezia.
493 of these tests proved negative, but the other 36 were positive for Covid-19. Marlene said that 33 of these new cases are Mozambican citizens, and three are foreigners (she did not mention their nationalities). 11 of the cases are asymptomatic and 2 display mild to moderate symptoms of the disease.
26 of the new cases are from Nampula City. Four of them (three girls and a boy) are children under the age of 15. There are also 12 adult men and ten adult women.
The number of Covid-19 cases in Nampula has now reached 87. A fortnight ago, no cases at all had been diagnosed in Nampula, which is the most populous province in the country.
Three of the new cases, a boy under the age of 15 and two adult women, are from Maputo City, and two others, a boy under 15 and an adult woman, are from Marracuene district in Maputo province.
There were also four cases (two adult men and two adult women) from Pemba, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, and an adult woman from Changara district, in Tete.
Of all the new cases, only the woman in Changara was a contact of a previously diagnosed case. The others were detected through "active surveillance" of visitors to health units (which means testing those whom health staff believe may be displaying symptoms of Covid-19, mainly respiratory problems).
Following the Health Ministry's standard procedures, all 36 new cases are now in home isolation, and health workers are tracing their contacts.
Marlene also announced that, in the previous 24 hours, a further five Covid-19 patients (four in Maputo City and one in Maputo province) have made a full recovery. This brings to 114 the number of people in Mozambique who were once infected, but are now considered free of the disease.
The distribution of positive Covid-19 cases by province, as of Thursday, was as follows: Cabo Delgado, 150; Nampula, 87; Maputo City, 60; Maputo Province, 24; Sofala, 12; Niassa, five; Tete, five; Inhambane, three; Gaza, three; Zambezia, two; Manica, one.
The key Covid-19 statistics for the country are now: 352 confirmed cases, of whom 114 have made a full recovery, and one is hospitalised (in Inhambane). Three Covid-19 patients have died, two of the disease itself, and the third from an unrelated pathology.
The deputy general director of the National Health Institute (INS), Eduardo Samo Gudo, told the press conference that the rise in the number of cases, particularly in Nampula, is a matter for concern.
The cases in Nampula are not a spillover from the neighbouring province of Cabo Delgado. None of the cases diagnosed in Nampula had travelled recently to Cabo Delgado. Their transmission chains are independent from those in Cabo Delgado.
Samo Gudo regarded the increase in the number of children infected by the coronavirus, as a sign that the pandemic in Mozambique might be moving from its current classification as "an epidemic with foci of transmission" towards the far more dangerous phase of "community transmission", in which the disease will spread more widely, with a danger that a large number of cases, all needing medical assistance at the same time, could overwhelm the health service.
But he believed "there is still a window of opportunity. It's not too late. We are in time to block community transmission".
But that would depend on citizens obeying the restrictive measures imposed by the government under the state of emergency. These include staying at home wherever possible, avoiding unnecessary travel, respecting social distancing (by keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between one person and the next), and the obligatory wearing of face masks in public places.