Mozambique: Border Crisis - Mozambique Retaliates

Maputo — Since the South African authorities will not accept Covid-19 rapid tests carried out at Mozambican facilities, Mozambique has decided to retaliate by refusing to allow into the country anybody with a South African Covid-19 rapid test.

On Wednesday, the Mozambican authorities had hoped that the huge queues at the Ressano Garcia border post could be lessened by the use of rapid Covid-19 tests (these are tests which detect, not the coronavirus itself, but the antibodies to the virus, and they only take a few minutes to administer).

But Mozambicans carrying negative results from the rapid tests were not allowed into South Africa. Border officials declared the tests were not valid and sent the Mozambicans back. Negotiations between the two sides proved futile, since the South Africans would not budge.

So on Thursday morning, Mozambique announced it would no longer accept results from Covid-19 rapid tests undertaken in South Africa.

At the border, the Maputo provincial director of health, Iolanda Tchamo, told reporters that the only tests now acceptable are PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests carried out by certified laboratories. She confirmed that Mozambicans with negative results from PCR tests were indeed being allowed to enter South Africa.

The PCR test shows whether the subject is currently infected by the virus. The rapid tests show whether the subject has, at some time in the recent past, been exposed to the virus.

A health brigade was sent to the border to take samples from the Mozambicans turned away from South Africa on Wednesday, and who had spent the night at the border post. The samples were sent immediately to the laboratory of the National Health Institute (INS) in Marracuene, just outside Maputo. Tchamo expected the results to be returned within a few hours, allowing the stranded Mozambicans to cross the border some time on Thursday afternoon.

The huge queues of vehicles witnessed on Wednesday, had been greatly reduced by midday on Thursday, largely because many trucks had given up and driven back to Maputo. Other travellers had decided to avoid the queues by entering South Africa via Eswatini, or by making a huge southern detour and using the Ponta de Ouro border post on the frontier with the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal.

Some families had been stranded for four days at the border, forced to sleep and eat in their cars.

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