Mozambique: Health Minister Worried By State of Nampula Markets

Maputo — Nampula (Mozambique), 5 Jul (AIM) - Mozambican Health Minister Armindo Tiago regards the delay in reorganising the markets in the northern Mozambican city of Nampula, as a matter of great concern.

Markets, in Nampula as in other cities, attract large crowds who usually do not practice social distancing, and so they become places where the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease can be easily transmitted. The government wants all markets reorganized so that there is a space of at least 1.5 metres between stalls, and between stallholders and their clients.

Last month's epidemiological survey in the city proved that the markets are coronavirus hotspots. The level of coronavirus infection among market stallholders is 10 per cent, twice the level of five per cent found among the general population

Tiago, who ended a four day visit to Nampula on Saturday, expressed his concern after visiting the "Waresta" wholesale market, which is being reorganised, and the space in the outlying neighbourhood of Natiquiri, where the municipal authorities have temporarily moved the Waresta traders.

The municipal councilor for markets, Osvaldo Ossufo Momade, told Tiago that the work of reorganizing the markets is behind scheduled, and there is thus no date fixed for the re-opening of Waresta.

"My impression is that the problems with the markets are continuing, as indeed the results of the epidemiological survey showed", said Tiago. "The markets are the places in Nampula city where the highest level of transmission of the virus occurs".

Tiago was far from impressed with the work the municipal council had done on the transitional market in Natiquiri. "I am concerned because the transitional market does not seem to offer conditions that are better than those in Waresta", he said.

He told reporters that this reality had guided his discussions with municipal officials, with the purpose of "guaranteeing the preparation of this market so that all the measures of prevention can be present".

Regular washing of hands with soap and water is key in the fight against Covid-19. Tiago thought that simple buckets of water were not enough, and the best point would be wash points with taps throughout the markets, associated with social distancing measures.

He thought there had been an improvement in people's understanding of the disease and the measures needed to fight it, such as the use of face masks. "Even in the transitional market, I noted that at least 80 per cent of the people were wearing masks", Tiago said.

Little by little, citizens were accepting the instructions from the health authorities. "But if we are to continue improving this knowledge", the Minister added, "we must not do it in the form of a campaign, but as a permanent process of health education".

Momade blamed the delay in completing the reorganisation of the Waresta market on its sheer size, since it is the largest market in northern Mozambique. He claimed that work on other markets depended on finishing the reorganization of Waresta.

"We shall continue to work, taking whatever time may be necessary, even if it is one or two months", he said. "Our plan is to divide the sections, and so not all the vendors will return to Waresta, because there is no way in which they can all fit and at the same time observe the necessary distancing. So the vendors of fruit and other perishable goods will remain in the transitional market, which will be improved, and will be called the Natikiri market. This will be our best response for preventing Covid-19".

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