Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Monday evening unanimously ratified the decree from President Filipe Nyusi extending for a further 30 days the state of emergency intended to block the spread of the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
All 234 deputies present - from the ruling Frelimo Party and from the opposition Renamo and MDM (Mozambique Democratic Movement) - voted in favour of ratification.
The State of Emergency took effect on 1 April for 30 days. Since then it has been renewed for three further periods of 30 days. It will now only expire on 30 July. There can be no further extension, since the Mozambican constitution only allows a maximum of three 30 day extensions to a state of emergency.
Nyusi announced on Sunday, not only an extension of the state of emergency, but also a relaxation of some of the government measures to fight Covid-19. The most important is the phased reopening of schools. The full details will be announced by the Education Ministry in a matter of days.
Some reopening of the borders is also envisaged with international flights allowed on the basis of reciprocity with the other countries involved. Museums and galleries may reopen if social distancing of two metres between each of the visitors is ensured. But cinemas, theatres and places of worship are to remain closed.
In the brief debate, Frelimo deputy Lucinda Malema said the government's preventive measures were largely responsible for the success in holding back the peak of the epidemic "despite the worrying developments of recent days".
"The fact that the disease has reached the state of community transmission in the northern cities of Nampula and Pemba, and that Maputo and Matola are at risk of following the same path, together with the daily increase in the number of cases, should increase the concern of all of us", she said.
Malema praised Nyusi's efforts to find and implement measures to alleviate the impact of Covid-19, without neglecting "the protection of needy households, of vulnerable individuals, of orphans, of the chronically ill, and of people displaced by terrorist actions".
Among the specific measures she praised were the reduction in water, fuel and electricity prices, the exemption from Value Added Tax (VAT) of sugar, soap and vegetable oil, and the risk allowance for health workers on the front line of fighting the pandemic.
Opposition deputies, while supporting the state of emergency, attacked abuses committed by the police. Renamo deputy Clementina Francisco lamented "the arbitrary detentions and the beating of citizens supposedly because they were not complying with the emergency measures".
She was sceptical about the prospects for reopening the schools, and called on the government to rethink this measure, arguing that in some countries the resumption of classes had led to an increase in Covid-19 infections.
The risk allowance for health professionals "is not enough", said Francisco, calling for an increase in their basic wage, and life insurance schemes to cover health workers and their dependents.
The head of the MDM parliamentary group, Lutero Simango, said the pandemic had altered the assumptions on which the Economic and Social Plan (PES) and the State Budget for 2020 were based. It would therefore make sense to revise and update these key instruments. He also called for the fiscal incentives announced by the government to be extended to the household sector of the economy, and not just to companies.
This session of the Assembly was held in a virtual format, with most deputies participating, not in person, but by video-conference, thus avoiding the possibility that they might be exposed to the disease in the parliament building.