Maputo — The Mozambican Health Ministry told reporters on Monday that the new strains of the coronavirus that cause the Covid-19 respiratory disease, which are circulating in India and Brazil, have not yet been diagnosed in Mozambique.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, the director of surveys in the National Health Institute (INS), Sergio Chicumbe, said "we have not yet detected circulation of the Indian or Brazilian variant".
But that was no reason for anyone to let down their guard. Chicumbe said that, in its epidemiological surveillance, the Health Ministry depends on collaboration with the reference laboratory of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in South Africa.
"In this collaboration, we have a quota of samples that can be analysed in a week", he explained, "and we make every effort to ensure that the samples are both random and representative of our territory. In this activity, we have not detected the Indian or the Brazilian strain.
But Chicumbe recognized that these strains pose a real risk for Mozambique, given its close ties with South Africa, where cases of the Indian strain have been detected.
The Deputy National Director of Public Health, Benigna Matsinhe, told the reporters that the appearance of the Indian strain, regarded as more virulent, more easily transmitted and thus potentially more lethal, than the original coronavirus, should serve as a warning bell for Mozambicans to make greater efforts in the implementation of preventive measures.
"The fact that this strain has already been detected in South Africa, a country which is also recording a slight increase in new cases and in deaths, should alert each one of us to individually redouble our efforts at prevention", she stressed.
The occurrence of new strains of the virus, and the fact that the number of new cases diagnosed in Mozambique is fluctuating, sometime dropping to levels recorded at the beginning of the pandemic, but on other days rising considerably, "shows us that Covid-19 should be regarded as a pathology that will be with us for an unknown time into the future", said Matsinhe.
She guaranteed that the Mozambican health authorities are attentive to the latest developments in the evolution of the pandemic, "and will continue to draw up strategies for collective action to minimize as far as possible the impact of the disease in all social and economic aspects".
"We all know how many people we have lost because of this disease", added Matsinhe. "We all know how much our country has suffered in social and economic terms. That's why, in the fight against Covid-19, we must continue to invest in what has been proven to give positive results - namely scrupulous compliance with preventive measures, including the correct wearing of face masks, frequent washing of hands, social distancing and avoidance of crowds. Added to these actions is vaccination to reduce the chances of contracting the most serious forms of infection".
Matsinhe reported two further deaths from Covid-19 and 24 new cases of the disease. The latest victims were two Mozambican men, aged 61 and 84, who both died in Maputo city. This brings the total Covid-19 death toll in Mozambique to 825.
Since the start of the pandemic, 528,677 people have been tested for the coronavirus, 322 of them in the previous 24 hours. Almost all of these tests were from Maputo city (225) and Maputo province (65). There were also 19 cases in Nampula, seven in Zambezia, four in Tete, one in Niassa and one in Sofala. No tests were reported from Cabo Delgado, Manica, Inhambane or Gaza.
298 of the tests yielded negative results, and 24 tested positive for the coronavirus. This brings the total number of Covid-19 cases diagnosed in Mozambique to 70,240.
Matsinhe said that all 24 new cases were Mozambican citizens. 17 were men or boys and six were women or girls. Only one was a child under the age of 15, and two were over 65 years old.
21 of the cases (87.5 per cent) were from Maputo city and province. The other three cases were from Nampula.
The positivity rate (the proportion of those tested found to be infected) for this 24 hour period was 7.5 per cent - a substantial increase on the rates reported on Sunday (3.1 per cent), Saturday (two per cent), or Friday (2.3 per cent). But the sample is so small, and restricted almost entirely to the Maputo area, that it would be difficult to draw any firm conclusions.
Over the same 24 hour period, five Covid-19 patients were discharged from hospital (four in Maputo and one in Niassa), but five new cases were admitted (three in Maputo and two in Nampula).
As of Monday, said Matsinhe, 29 people were under medical care in the Covid-19 treatment centres (down from 31 on Sunday). 20 of these patients (69 per cent) were in Maputo. There were also four in Nampula, two in Zambezia, two in Tete and one in Inhambane. Nobody was hospitalised in the Covid-19 units in the other six provinces.
Of those hospitalised, 21 are men and eight are women. 15 are aged 60 or above, and nine are aged between 45 and 59. Matsinhe described the clinical condition of 14 of the patients as "moderate", while 12 are seriously ill and three are in a critical state. Those three are on ventilators in intensive care units, and 23 patients are receiving supplementary oxygen.
Matsinhe said that on Monday a further 14 people were declared fully recovered from Covid-19 (12 in Cabo Delgado and two in Niassa). This brings the total number of recoveries to 67,799, or 96.5 per cent of all those ever diagnosed with Covid-19 in Mozambique.
The number of active Covid-19 cases rose slightly on Monday, to 1,610 (up from 1,600 on Sunday). The geographical distribution of these cases was as follows: Maputo province, 775 (48.1 per cent of the total); Sofala, 304; Maputo city, 283; Zambezia, 121; Nampula, 30; Niassa, 29; Gaza, 28; Inhambane, 13; Manica, 12; Tete, nine; and Cabo Delgado, six.