Maputo — Mozambican Health Minister Armindo Tiago announced in the northern city of Nampula on Thursday that drastic and strategic measures are being taken to hold back the spread of the Covid-19 respiratory disease in Nampula province.
Nampula is currently the second worst hit province in the country (behind Cabo Delgado), with 87 confirmed cases of Covid-19. A fortnight ago no cases at all had been diagnosed in Nampula. Almost all the known cases are concentrated in Nampula city.
Tiago promised strong measures after a Thursday meeting of the Nampula Provincial Emergency Operational Committee.
He said measures must be taken because the rapid spread of Covid-19 in the city is due to the failure by many Nampula citizens to observe the restrictive measures imposed by the government under the state of emergency, such as social distancing, the obligatory use of face masks, and the avoidance of all unnecessary travel.
Tiago said that Nampula's high population density is obliging the government to take special measures. He had decided to come in person to the province, to work with the local authorities "so that we can rapidly cut the chains of transmission, and thus avoid deaths and a large number of cases".
"We have to innovate", he declared. "We must guarantee that the population complies with social distancing, we must reorganize the position of the stalls in the markets, and officials must avoid making journeys".
When official delegations travelled around the province "many people are in circulation and that facilitates the circulation of the virus", Tiago warned. He was sure the officials could do the necessary work remotely, using the various means of communication available.
Tiago was also worried by the fact that some Nampula residents who have tested positive for Covid-19 have defied the instruction to self-isolate. They have left their homes and are thus putting other people at risk.
"Isolation has two forms", he said. "Home isolation for asymptomatic cases or for people with mild symptoms, while for people with moderate or serious symptoms, isolation takes place in a health unit. That's the protocol".
"In general, people in home isolation undergo obligatory quarantine until they are discharged", he continued. "Unfortunately, in some cases they come out of isolation and spread the virus to other parts of the country".
He promised to step up Covid-19 testing in Nampula, to follow up the contacts of people already diagnosed as positive, and to improve "active surveillance" in the health units. This surveillance is aimed at people suffering from what could be initial symptoms of the disease, such as respiratory problems.
Tiago announced the immediate opening of a local isolation centre in Nampula city "where today (Thursday) two patients will be hospitalised, to guarantee that the cases found through active surveillance are isolated and under control".
He confirmed that next week a laboratory for Covid-19 tests will open in Nampula. Currently, all samples taken must be sent to Maputo for testing, usually at the laboratory of the National Health Institute (INS). But as from next week, Nampula samples can be tested in Nampula.
Tiago announced that rapid anti-body tests will begin immediately "so that we can see the intensity of transmission, and then take measures in accordance with the results found".