Maputo — The Mozambican Minister of Health, Armindo Tiago, on Thursday inaugurated a public health laboratory in Pemba, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, that can test for the coronavirus that causes the covid-19 respiratory disease.
The new laboratory can also test patients for various other infections, using modern techniques of molecular biology.
Addressing the ceremony, Tiago said laboratory diagnosis of coronavirus infection is one of the main pillars for controlling the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that tests have been carried out in Mozambique since 10 March, using the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) technique, which is the only method approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for diagnosing Covid-19.
But initially the tests could only be held at the headquarters of the National Health Institute (INS) at Marracuene, just outside Maputo. Samples from other provinces had to be sent to Marracuene for testing, and this was at the mercy of whatever flights were available.
Tiago said the government had decided to decentralise testing capacity to the provinces. Testing for the coronavirus began in the central city of Beira in June, and earlier this month a laboratory in the northern city of Nampula began operations.
"Last week", said the Minister, "Tete and Zambezia provinces began to test locally, through the GeneXpert technology urgent cases, including health workers, and patients who require hospitalisation",
Setting up the Pemba laboratory enjoyed the support of the French oil and gas company, Total.
"It was with the support of this partner that we assembled the infrastructure and installed the complete PCR equipment for diagnosing Covid-19 in real time", said Tiago. "The equipment now installed allows a daily testing capacity of 200 samples".
In addition to the technological capacity, technical staff have been trained to work in the laboratory.
"Cabo Delgado now has skilled human resources who can test for Covid-19", said Tiago. "This is an important gain for the province".
Setting up the laboratory will have an immediate impact on the time taken to respond to suspect cases of Covid-19, since it will no longer be necessary to send the samples to Maputo, the Minister stressed.
"This greater speed is particularly important in this phase when Pemba is recording a pattern of community transmission of the coronavirus", he added.