Maputo — The Mozambican Ministry of Health is preparing to transform the ophthalmology block in Beira Central Hospital into an additional isolation ward for Covid-19 patients.
According to Health Minister Armindo Tiago, cited by the independent television station STV, this block will be used if the 24th July Hospital, currently Beira's main Covid-19 treatment centre, runs out of beds.
"We are preparing the ophthalmology block, so that, if we do exhaust the capacity of the 24th July hospital, we will have an area of expansion", said Tiago.
The government hopes, however, that the current measures to block the spread of Covid-19 will prove effective and it will not be necessary to put patients in the Beira ophthalmology block.
But Tiago admitted that this optimism may prove misplaced. He told reporters that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is continuing to spread throughout the country. In Beira, the positivity rate (the proportion of people tested who turn out to be carrying the virus) "is extremely high", the Minister said. "Last week it was over 40 per cent. That is, of the people we tested, 40 per cent had a positive result".
This was considerably higher than the average positivity rate across Mozambique, which was about 30 per cent.
Sofala province, of which Beira is the capital, has 2,296 active Covid-19 cases, which makes it the third most affected province after Maputo city (10,964 cases) and Maputo province (2,344).
Meanwhile, the national prison service (SERNAP) said on Friday that, between 1 January and 18 February, 70 cases of Covid-19 were detected among prisoners and prison staff.
At a Maputo press conference, the SERNAP National Director for Health Care, Cemilde Anli, said the first cases had been detected in August last year.
She thus contradicted the government spokesperson, Deputy Justice Minister Filimao Suaze, who declared, on 4 February, that there was no contamination in the country's prisons.
Anli said SERNAP is now imposing obligatory quarantine or isolation on any new entries into the prisons. Any citizen suspected of carrying the virus is immediately isolated and the district health services are informed.
She added that, of the 19,000 people currently held in Mozambican prisons, only 8,000 have beds. The situation has been worsened by the police arrests of citizens violating the Covid-19 prevention rules, particularly the curfew in force in the Greater Maputo Metropolitan Area between 21.00 and 04.00.
Anli said that, since 1 January, an extra 3,000 people had entered the prison system, many of whom were curfew breakers.