Mozambique: COVID-19 Cases Doubled In 11 Days

With 74 new cases Friday and Saturday (12-13 June), the total number of cases has doubled in just 11 days.  This is the 8th most rapid increase in the world, according to The doubling time has shortened, from 13 days just a week ago. On 20 May the total cases were double those of 26 days before.

Although the infection rate is low, it is accelerating. There is now community spread in Nampula and it is likely to be occurring in Pemba and Maputo city.

One more death has been confirmed, of a man isolating at home in Nampula, bringing the total to three. But for the first time there are press reports claiming spread and deaths within prisons not included in official data because there were no tests done. It is reported that four people in Machava central prison in Matola have died this month from "breathing problems", and at least six more have been hospitalised. (Dossiers & Factos 8 June, Intelyse 5 June)

Mozambique's number of cases is now doubling in 11 days. Its neighbours South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi have only slightly longer doubling times of 13-15 days.

Since the start of epidemic, there have been 583 cases of Covid-19 confirmed. Of those, 151 have recovered and 428 are still ill of whom only 3 are in hospital, all in Nampula, according to data including Friday 12 June, reported yesterday. There were 44 new cases confirmed Friday and 30 Saturday:

Nampula: 179 total cases, 25 new Friday and Saturday

Cabo Delgado: 191 total, 18 new

Maputo city: 83, 10

Maputo province: 55, 4

Tete: 17, 11

Sofala: 17, 2

Inhambane: 16, 1

Manica: 6, 0

Niassa: 6, 0

Gaza: 8, 0

Zambezia: 5, 3

Nampula city has the largest number of cases and is the first place with community transmission without an identified focus. The Cabo Delgado outbreak can still be traced back to the Afungi gas work camp of Total, although the new cases are in Palma and Pemba.

Mozambique is largely testing contacts and is testing a smaller portion of the population than most other countries; as a percentage of its population, South Africa is testing 30 times as many people as Mozambique. Also, many deaths may not be registered as Covid-19 related because they were not tested.

Of those tested, only 3% have been positive. Of those testing positive, 50% are asymptomatic.

COVID-19 Will Continue Through 2021

Mozambicans should prepare for “a new normal”, warned the General Director of the National Health Institute (INS), Ilesh Jani, on Friday. It is no longer likely that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can be defeated in a matter of months. Mozambicans will be living with Covid-19 throughout 2021. “We will have to learn to live with the virus”, said Jani. That would mean “new ways of working in teams, new models for meeting, for travelling, for organising public events, and for holding funerals”.

He praised the Maputo municipal council, and other municipalities, who are already thinking about how to reorganize markets, so that these become places less likely to spread Covid-19, and thus less dangerous to both vendors and consumers.

So far, Jani pointed out, none of the measures imposed by the Mozambican government under the state of emergency have been relaxed. Restrictive measures include a ban all religious, political, cultural and other activities likely to attract crowds, the restriction of travel to the minimum necessary, the wearing of masks in public, and social distancing of at least 1.5 metres between individuals, particularly in places such as shops and markets. (AIM 12 June)

Google mobility data (graphed below) based on mobile telephone locations can be used to compare January with the period after the emergency was declared on 1 April. It shows dramatically that the emergency had an effect, with more people staying at home and fewer people going to work and shopping. But the effect had partly worn off at the beginning of May, with more people at work and shopping, although use of public transport remained down. In Nampula, which is now the main centre of community transmission, people have largely stopped obeying the emergency restrictions, as has been reported in the press.

The graphs show movement of mobile telephones compared to the baseline period of January, which is a holiday period. Thus the yellow workplace line is above the January level in February and March as more people went to work. For all of Mozambique and for Maputo it falls below the January level in April, showing the Emergency rules are being obeyed. And for May it shows that people going to their workplace has only increased to the January level and not the March level. The data also shows more people staying at home and fewer people going to restaurants and using public transport. Thus for Mozambique in general and Maputo city, the Emergency rules are still being partially obeyed.

The problem of neighbouring states

One of Mozambique's problems is the very long borders which are commonly crossed unofficially, and that people could bring the disease over the border. It is already suggested that truck drivers may have brought the disease into Mozambique.

South Africa has a quarter of all Africa's Covid-19 cases, although the infection and death rate are still much lower than Europe and the United States.

The biggest difficulty may be denial in neighbouring states. Tanzania stopped publishing official data on 29 April, when there were already 21 deaths. On Sunday 7 June Tanzania's President John Magufuli told worshippers in a church in the capital, Dodoma. that "the corona disease has been eliminated thanks to God," and the prayers by citizens mean the country is "coronavirus-free." But reliable reports say that Covid-19 is serious in Tanzania and that recent deaths include a prominent academic.

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