Maputo — The Secretary of State for the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, Armindo Ngunga, on Monday launched an epidemiological survey in the provincial capital, Pemba, to identify the areas of the city worst hit by the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
Speaking at a Ministry of Health press conference in Maputo, the Deputy General Director of the National Health Institute (INS), Eduardo Samo Gudo, said the survey will last for seven days, and will give rapid blood tests to about 4,000 people, particularly from those professional groups believed to be most exposed to the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
Samo Gudo said the main targets for the survey are health professionals, formal and informal market traders, policemen, shop workers, and workers on passenger transport, including motorbike-taxis.
This is the second such survey. The first was held in Nampula city in mid-June, and showed that the prevalence of coronavirus antibodies in the general public is five per cent. But market vendors had much higher exposure to the coronavirus, with a prevalence of up to 21 per cent.
The Pemba survey, said Samo Gudo, should show whether the same professional groups were as exposed to the coronavirus in Pemba as in Nampula, and whether markets are again the main sources for transmission of the disease.
The survey relies on a blood test, which reveals whether he person tested is carrying coronavirus antibodies, and has thus been in contact with the virus in the recent past. It does not test for the coronavirus itself, and thus cannot tell which people are currently infected.
Samo Gudo said the field work will take about three days, and he expected the results of the survey to be published by the end of July.
Nampula and Pemba cities were chosen for the survey, because they are the only places in the country so far where Covid-19 has made the transition from an epidemic with foci of transmission to an epidemic with community transmission, which is far more difficult to control.
The National Director of Public Health, Rosa Marlene, told the press conference, that the number of positive cases of Covd-19 has now broken through the psychological barrier of 1,000.
Since the first cases was diagnosed, on 22 March, 34,036 people had been tested, 911 of them in the previous 24 hours. 892 people were tested in public facilities and 19 in private laboratories.
Of the samples tested, 509 were from Maputo Province, 166 from Maputo City, 88 from Nampula, 67 from Gaza, 43 from Niassa, 25 from Tete, six from Zambezia, five from Cabo Delgado, one from Sofala and one from Inhambane.
866 of these samples proved negative, and 25 tested positive for Covid-19. This pushes the total number of positive cases in Mozambique up to 1,012.
The new cases are all Mozambican citizens. 16 are men or boys and nine are women or girls. One is a child under 15 years of age, four are adolescents aged between 15 and 24, 19 are adults aged between 25 and 64, and one is over 65 years old.
Five cases are from Nampula - two in Nampula city, one in the port of Nacala, and two in Mogovolas district. There are three cases from Cabo Delgado, all in Pemba, and one from Lichinga, capital of Niassa province.
11 cases are from Maputo city, and one from the neighbouring city of Matola. Three cases are from Gaza (two in the provincial capital, Xai-Xai, and one on Chokwe district). One is from Cahora Bassa district, in Tete province.
In line with standard Ministry of Health procedure, all 25 new cases have been placed under home isolation, and their contacts are now being traced.
Marlene said that, over the previous 24 hours, a further seven Covid-19 patients, six in Cabo Delgado and one in Maputo province, have made a full recovery, bringing the total number of recoveries to 277.
The distribution of the 1,012 positive cases by province, as of Saturday, was as follows: Nampula, 314; Cabo Delgado, 286; Maputo City, 167; Maputo Province, 113: Tete, 29; Sofala, 25; Inhambane, 25; Gaza, 17; Niassa, 16; Zambezia, 14; Manica, six.
Thus, the basic Covid-19 statistics for Mozambique are now: 1,012 confirmed cases, of which 277 have made a full recovery and 725 are active cases. Ten Covid-19 patients have died, eight from the disease, and two from other pathologies.
Giving the epidemiological analysis covering the past week, Samo Gudo said that the number of positive Covid-19 cases detected had risen from 68 in April to 178 in May to 635 in June, and 123 for the first six days of July.
The positivity rate - the percentage of cases tested that prove positive - varies wildly between provinces. Samo Gudao said it is 11.5 per cent in Nampula and 6.1 per cent in Cabo Delgado. In all other provinces the figure is lower than two per cent.
There has been considerable hand-wringing on Mozambican social media about the number of cases in Mozambique passing 1,000 (in a period of over three months). But Samo Gudo pointed out that neighbouring South Africa is recording over 9,000 cases of Covid-19 per day.
The Mozambican death rate from Covid-19 remains extremely low, at 0.2 per million inhabitants. For comparison, the rate in South Africa is a 51 deaths per million inhabitants, in Eswatini it is 6.9 per million, and in Zambia 1.6 per million. Among members of SADC (Southern African Development Community) on the African mainland, the only country with a lower death rate than Mozambique is Namibia, where nobody at all has died from Covid-19.