Maputo — The Mozambican health authorities on Friday announced the diagnosis, in the previous 24 hours, of a further 521 infections with the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
There were also five Covid-19 deaths, and 30 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised. All of these figures are new records. The previous record for the number of coronavirus cases diagnosed in a single day was less than a week ago, on 3 January, when 341 cases were reported.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, the National Director of Medical Care in the Health Ministry, Ussene Issa, said this situation should put the country on high alert. For if infections continue to rise at this rate, all the work in recent months to reduce the spread of the disease and to protect the national health system could be undone.
There can be little doubt that this sharp rise in coronavirus cases is related to the reckless behavior of many Mozambicans over the festive season. During the Christmas and New Year holidays the Ministry of Health's advice about avoiding crowds was widely ignored. The television footage of revelers across the country enjoying themselves showed a complete disregard for social distancing. Furthermore, the great majority of people at these festivities were not wearing masks.
After the festive season, dangerous behavior continued at government offices where people were trying to renew their identity cards or their driving licences. Large crowds, with no social distancing, were allowed to build up at these places and simple measures (such as extending the validity of the documents in question) were not taken.
Isse warned that, if there is no change in the attitude of citizens towards preventive measures, the situation could worsen and compromise the capacity of the health service to respond to the pandemic.
"This worrying growth in the number of cases at the start of the year mean that we must all redouble the preventive measures. We have repeatedly called on all citizens to comply strictly with them", he said. Those measures include frequent handwashing, the obligatory use of masks in public places, and social distancing of at least 1.5 metres between individuals.
Isse pointed out that, in the first eight days of 2021, there had been 1,840 new coronavirus infections, 132 new hospitalisations and 15 deaths. These numbers "are worrying for such a short space of time", he said, particularly as several southern African countries are facing a second wave of the pandemic.
Of the five deaths reported, two occurred in Tete province, and three in Maputo city. Two were Mozambican women, aged 51 and 57, and three were Mozambicans men, aged 32, 60 and 80. All had been under medical care in Tete and Maputo hospitals, but their condition continued to deteriorate.
Two of them died on Wednesday, two on Thursday and one on Friday morning. This brings the total Covid-19 death toll in Mozambique to 181.
Since the start of the pandemic, 238,058 people in Mozambique have been tested for the coronavirus, 2,302 of them in the previous 24 hours. Of the samples tested, 890 were from Maputo city, 233 from Maputo province, 229 from Cabo Delgado, 204 from Zambezia, 193 from Nampula, 185 from Tete, 164 from Sofala, 91 from Manica, 68 from Gaza, 37 from Niassa, and eight from Inhambane.
1,781 of the tests gave negative results, but 521 people tested positive for the coronavirus. This brings the number of positive cases diagnosed since the start of the pandemic to 20,582. 500 of the new cases are Mozambicans, and 21 are foreigners whose nationality has yet to be confirmed.
275 are men or boys and 246 are women or girls. 78 cases are children under the age of 15, and 26 are over 65 years old. In 11 cases, no age information was available.
The largest number of cases came from the far south - 153 from Maputo city and 99 from Maputo province. But no province escaped unscathed - there were 61 cases from Zambezia, 52 from Nampula, 50 from Sofala, 30 from Manica, 25 from Niassa, 22 from Tete, 21 from Cabo Delgado, five from Inhambane and three from Gaza.
Over the same 24 hour period, only one Covid-19 patient was discharged from hospital (in Maputo). But 30 new cases were admitted - five in Tete and 25 in Maputo. Currently, 119 people are under medical care in the Covid-19 isolation wards (99 in Maputo, six in Tete, five in Zambezia, three in Nampula, three in Manica, one in Matola, one in Sofala and one in Gaza).
This is by far the largest number of Covid-19 patients to be hospitalised at the same time. However, there is still spare capacity in the isolation wards. Even in Maputo, according to Isse, only 50 per cent of the intensive care beds are currently occupied.
Over the previous 24 hours, only 24 people were declared as fully recovered from Covid-19 (16 in Gaza, five in Zambezia, two in Inhambane and one in Maputo province. The total number of recoveries now stands at 17,479 - which is 85.3 per cent of all those diagnosed with the coronavirus in Mozambique.
The number of active Covid-19 cases has now risen to 2,818 (up from 2,326 the previous day). Their geographical breakdown is as follows: Maputo city, 1,694 (60.1 per cent of the total); Maputo province, 302; Sofala, 187; Nampula, 130; Cabo Delgado, 129; Niassa, 103; Manica, 87; Zambezia, 68; Inhambane, 49; Tete, 42; Gaza, 27.