Mozambique: Covid-19: Emergency Measures End As Cases Jump

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The state of emergency, decreed on 1 April, expired at midnight on Wednesday 29 July. The constitution limits a state of emergency to a maximum of 120 days, and so Nyusi could not extend it. With the end of the state of emergency, many of the restrictive measures cease to have the force of law - but in his speech to the nation on Wednesday, the President urged people to continue obeying them anyway, as a matter of public health.

Among the measures are the closure of all schools, the closure of bars and places of nocturnal entertainment, a ban on public political, religious, cultural and sporting events that are likely to attract crowds, limitations on the number of people who can attend funerals, and compulsory wearing of masks in most public places. (AIM 30,31 July)

The President must submit a report on the emergency to parliament, and he did this Friday. Parliament's Permanent Commission sent the report to the Constitutional Affairs Commission, and extended the emergency sitting of parliament to consider the report on Tuesday (4 Aug).

Nothing has been said by either the President's office or parliament as to what is to be proposed. After this gap, it would be possible to impose a new State of Emergency.

Meanwhile, cases continue to rise, with 975 new cases in July compared to 178 in May. As of Thursday, there has been 1,808 confirmed cases, of which 638 have made a full recovery and 1,157 are active cases. There have been 13 deaths of Covid-19 patients, 11 from the disease, and two from other pathologies.

Geographical distribution of the 1,808 confirmed cases, by province where they were diagnosed, was as follows: nearly all cases in four provinces - Cabo Delgado, 444; Nampula, 408; Maputo city, 352; Maputo province, 340 - and the others - Tete, 49; Inhambane, 47; Sofala, 43; Gaza, 40; Zambezia, 39; Niassa, 29; Manica, 17.

The two biggest mining companies in Cabo Delgado, Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM) and Syrah Resources graphite, have shut down, officially due to Covid-19, but also due to the war. MRM has suspended 840 workers for at least six months and Syrah cut more than 400. At least 10 MRM staff have been diagnosed with Covid-19. Kenmare reports at least 5 cases in its Larde, Nampula, heavy sands (titanium) mine. Total's Afungi gas work camp reopened in June after it was closed when dozens of cases were found.

The global economic crisis caused by Covid has also hit mining. Syrah had already planned to reduce mining because global demand for graphite has fallen. Vale stopped mining thermal coal in Moatize, Tete, in June because of a fall in demand, and will not resume this year.

Survey shows many more covid-19 cases

A National Health Institute sample survey in Pemba in early July showed that 2.5% of the city's people had been infected by Covid-19. The population of the city is over 220,000. Thus the survey suggests 5,500 cases. Yet official statistics show only 444 cases in all of Cabo Delgado, and many of those were in the Afungi gas workers camp in Palma. A survey of Nampula city in June showed 5% infected there, but with official figures showing much lower cases.

Officially there have been 1,808 confirmed cases nationally. Yet the Nampula and Pemba surveys suggest that the number must be at least 40,000. And Mozambique reports only 13 deaths and a handful of hospitalisations, which seems incredibly low.

The picture is so different from neighbouring South Africa that it raises questions. Yesterday total cases passed the half million mark there. Khayelitsha in Cape Town has overflowing hospitals and high death rates, yet there are no similar reports in dense neighbourhoods in Mozambican cities. South Africa reports 135 Covid-19 deaths per million population, Mozambique reports 0.4 per million. Does South Africa really have a death rate 400 times that of Mozambique?

Mozambique has a mostly rural population which is less mobile and is young, which would reduce the infection and death rate. Also, most people who die of Covid-19 have underlying illnesses. Perhaps with a high rate of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, when people die at home the cause is assumed to be the underlying condition and the Covid-19 link is simply not mentioned.

The Pemba survey showed the highest percentages of people who had been infected were in three neighbourhoods, all densely packed housing near the beach and where war refugees are landing in small boats: Ingonane (7.3% infected), Carioco (5.5%) and Paquitequete (5.4%).

As well as neighbourhoods, the Health Institutr did non-random surveys of key groups and found market traders had the highest rate (6.8% infected), followed by refugees 6.1%, health workers 5.5%, shop workers 5.4%, fishers 5.4% and transport workers 4.8%.

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